A POLICE recruitment drive has been blasted as a ‘complete lottery’ after a hotline was jammed by hundreds of job seekers.
Applicants said trying to get through to Lancashire police for an application pack for one of 100 new posts was like trying to get a ticket to a pop concert or festival.
Just 500 application packs were available on a first come first served basis to people who called the hotline.
All were given out in just four and a half hours.
Former Eastern division chief superintendent Bob Eastwood said the ‘unsophisticated’ process had deprived people of getting ‘the job of their dreams’, while MP Jack Straw said the best applicants should become police officers, not just the ones with the quickest phone lines.
The force said 'unprecedented' demand and an 'insufficient number of jobs' were to blame.
Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said he would now be discussing the issue with the Chief Constable with a view to ‘making improvements’ in the future.
Lauren Maymond, from Burnley, studied sociology and criminiology at university to prepare her for a career in the sector.
She has also completed a counselling course to gain more experience working with people, and also volunteers in a women’s refuge in her spare time.
The 24-year-old said she tried several times, always getting an engaged tone, until hearing a message that said all the applications were gone.
She said: “I’m obviously disappointed, and it was frustrating really.
“It was poorly organised. They said they were expecting a high volume of calls, but there was no call waiting, there was just one line open, and that’s not really good considering there were going to be a lot of applications.
“I hope I would have stood a good chance. I went to university because I wanted to work in the justice system.”
Mr Eastwood, who recently retired, said: “I wonder how many quality candidates have now been deprived of the opportunity of what would be a vocation - the job of their dreams.
“There are more sophisticated methods to run an initial selection process than the one chosen.
“Why this can’t be done electronically, through emails, which is surely low cost, escapes me.
“I can’t understand using such an unsophisticated method to send out initial applications.
“I think a real opportunity has been missed here. The fact that it’s surrounded in such controversy should be something that the chief constable responds to.”
The recruitment campaign was the first time in five years external candidates had been able to apply to join the force.
A police spokeswoman said applicants who got through on the phone were required to undertake a short telephone interview to help establish whether they were eligible to receive an application pack, such as two A levels and no serious criminal convictions.
Amongst those left disappointed were students who have spent three years studying Public Services degree courses in preparation for applying to join the police.
One Blackburn man said: “I find it a poor way to recruit. It is as if we are trying to get tickets for a event.
“Surely you should recruit on merit and not who is lucky enough to get through to the horrendous phone service. It was like a lottery.
“The phone lines were constantly jammed and no queuing system or information was given.
“After trying from 11am until 4pm I was then told by a voice message that all applications had gone.”
said he had spent £30 in credit calling the 0845 number, but had failed to get an application pack.
A fellow job seeker said he had spent £30 in credit calling the 0845 number, but had failed to get an application pack.
He said: “I’d been ringing all day from 11.06 in the morning until 4.54 in the afternoon, and I didn’t get through.
“I was quite disappointed because I was calling an 0845 number from my mobile.”
MPs in East Lancashire said they were also concerned about the recruitment process.
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “It is crucial that the police force be able to look out the best candidates and not those that just happen to be on the fastest line that morning.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “Maybe it was a little naive for the constabulary to think nobody would have applied for what is an extremely good career.”
And Haslingden and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: “I will be raising my concerns with the police and crime commissioner regarding this issue.
“They should have been more prepared for the demand. They should have understood that good jobs are a rarity.”
Crime Commissioner Mr Grunshaw said the force would be looking to make improvements after receiving complaints.
He said: “I appreciate many people have been left angry at the telephone system which was put in place, and I take those comments on board and will be discussing them with the Chief Constable with a view to making improvements.
“I can reassure people the recruitment system was designed to be as fair as possible, and whatever system was put in place would have inevitably led to people missing out – either at this stage or at a later date.”