Eye-tests may be discriminatory on grounds of gender and disability

Hundreds of officers may be denied firearms because of new eyesight standards according to the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW). 

Sep 3, 2018
By Serena Lander

PFEW vice-chair Ché Donald said the new standards could unfairly target males, who are more likely to suffer colour-blindness or Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD).  

The majority of the 6,459 armed officers in England and Wales are males.  

One officer is already known to be taking legal action over these changes, which were introduced last year, according to PFEW.  

The College of Policing used to require officers to pass one of two tests to be issued with a firearm. However, the new regulations say that both tests must now be passed.  

Those who were diagnosed with mild CVD are now subject to retrospective tests.  

Mr Donald criticised the college for making the move in a time where police officer numbers are still short.  

“In 2016 the Government announced that it was boosting the number of armed officers by 1,500 in response to the increased terrorist threat,” he said. “However, this uplift has not been met with the latest figures showing the total is some 700 officers short of that.”  

Because most of the officers in firearms units are males, and CVD is most prevalent in males this could single-handedly destroy the uplift in officers.  

CVD affects one in 12 men and one in 200 women. 

He also said that it is well known from “extensive research studies” that the tests to screen for CVD are unreliable.  

The PFEW said that the new standards have already caused issues in force areas such as Devon and Cornwall, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Essex, Humberside, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, the Ministry of Defence and in London.  

A spokesperson from the College of Policing said: “The key points which the standards establish are the ability to identify a subject based on a description, of which colour could be a significant factor, particularly where this may lead to pre-emptive use of force or officers using lethal force or firearms, and the ability to operate firearms with a red dot sight system. 

“However, the testing which officers have to undergo if they fail screening, was updated last year. The changes do not exclude all officers with colour vision deficiency but only those below a certain threshold.  

“The standards were reviewed based on the role, equipment and expert technical and medical advice on colour vision deficiencies.”

Copyright © 2024 Police Professional