Disability Now (DN) have reported that seven times more police officers are bringing disability discrimination cases against their forces than five years ago. Between 2003 and 2008, the number of disability discrimination cases rose from 22 to 148. During the same period, race-related claims rose from 43 to 62, and sexual discrimination claims fell from 82 to 79. Although the Disability Discrimination Act has been in force since 1995, the employment duty did not cover the police until 2004, since when there has been a substantial increase in cases, it is thought that this is the reason for the increase.
DN report that “Disability discrimination cases also account for more than a third of all tribunals brought against police forces and are estimated to have cost taxpayers more than £3.4 million over the last five years, of which £2 million was accounted for in the last year alone.”
Scott Westbrook, President of the National Disabled Police Association, also attributes the rise in claims to modernisation and the increased employment of police officers who have suffered injuries: ‘Forces want to reduce bureaucracy and get more police officers back out on the streets. I have no problem with that, but in some cases, it’s like a witch-hunt to see who they can kick out of the job. They’re not looking at the impact this is having on the workforce. That’s why the number of employment tribunals has gone up.’
However, Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, criticised the fact that settlement payouts are made so quickly without considering how else the issues might be resolved: ‘Senior management of every police force must focus on working with officers who have disabilities, rather than simply trying to buy them off.’