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August 2019
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Surrey Police did not discriminate against dismissed officer

An Employment Tribunal in Croydon has rejected a claim that Surrey Police discriminated against an officer who was dismissed for poor performance during her probationary period.

Alison Wheeler, now aged 40, was dismissed in December 2007, after she was found to be incompetent as an officer. The tribunal dismissed her claims she had been discriminated against due to her age and gender.

Ms Wheeler joined Surrey Police in January 2006 and undertook the new recruits’ course at the Force’s Training School near Guildford. She was then posted to North Surrey to serve her probationary period, where, as with all new officers, she received guidance and support from experienced colleagues.

Officers assessing her ability observed regular underperformance. Ms Wheeler was often late for duty and failed to take responsibility for some of her assignments while working in CID. A performance action plan was drawn up to provide structured development, but she failed to meet its targets, such as arriving at work on time.

She was then posted to the Targeted Patrol Team to experience another area of policing. While here, she failed to intervene when another officer was being assaulted outside Walton police station. She did not use her personal protection equipment and did not activate the emergency button on her police radio, which officers are trained to do if they or colleagues are facing immediate danger.

Following this incident, Ms Wheeler lost the confidence of fellow officers and, in combination with the other performance issues identified, her suitability as an officer was reconsidered. Under national police regulations, she was dismissed before completion of her probationary period, a course of action that was not taken lightly and for which there is no right of appeal.

Following her dismissal, she lodged a grievance that she had been discriminated against due to her age and gender. Thorough internal reviews were conducted by senior officers, all of which found she had been treated fairly and that her personal circumstances had not contributed to her dismissal. After these reviews, she sought the Employment Tribunal.

Commenting on the verdict, Assistant Chief Constable Ian Dyson said: -Far from discriminating against Ms Wheeler or writing-off her potential at the first sign of weakness, we supported her – as we do with all new officers – and created an action plan to help her achieve her goal of becoming a police officer.

-Despite this, her poor performance continued during her probationary period and she failed to help a colleague who was being attacked and to uphold her duty to the public. The decision to dismiss her was based on sound evidence and this scurrilous claim at Employment Tribunal has cost the Force considerably in terms of time and resources.

-Surrey Police values the diversity of our workforce and welcomes applications from all suitably qualified candidates, regardless of their age, gender, social background or any other personal circumstances.

-However, we make no apologies for dismissing someone who was not suitable to be a police officer and will support managers in identifying and tackling underperformance.

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