It is an iron law of modern civic life in Britain that the more an organisation trumpets its commitment to equal opportunities, the more it will be accused of discrimination. For the neurotic focus on equality leaves it vulnerable to vexatious and frivolous complaints.
That is certainly what has happened in the Metropolitan Police, a once proud body renowned across the world for its integrity, but now crippled by an ideological obsession with race and gender. The disastrous mismanagement was highlighted this week by an industrial tribunal case, in which three white police officers are taking action against the Met for alleged discrimination, claiming that they have been the victims of a politically correct witch-hunt.
It is fair to say that the Met has had a problem with racism but the force has now lost all sense of proportion. The three officers were investigated—and one of them suspended—after they were said to have made offensive anti-Muslim remarks in front of a female Asian officer during a race-awareness training course. After months of inquiry at the highest level of the Met, the three men were finally cleared of any wrong-doing.
Scotland Yard’s most senior Asian officer, assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who looked into the case in 2002 and gave the verdict of innocence, said that he “found it incredible that this matter was taken up”.
But in truth there is nothing incredible about the way this ludicrous case was handled. Since 1999, when the Macpherson report into the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence accused the Met of “institutional racism”, London’s police force has been paralysed by anxiety over the issue of diversity. Eager to prove its anti-racist, pro-gay, feminist credentials, the Met prefers to fight supposed prejudice than real crime.
One sorry result of this neurosis about discrimination is the creation of a vast bureaucracy, which does nothing but waste resources. The Met is now awash with race units and equality action plans, all geared towards heightening the climate of grievance.
So within the shambolic organisation there is a consultation, diversity and outreach unit; a diversity directorate that includes six separate diversity teams covering everything from age to sexual orientation; a diversity champion; an equal opportunities and diversity board; a positive action team; a lesbian, gay and transgender advisory group and a cultural and communities unit.
Today’s senior London coppers might not be much use in defeating criminality, but they are superb at organising meetings and generating reports. They can talk like the most fluent pseudo-Marxist academic about “contextualised learning on race” and act like the most politically correct Blairite civil servant in demanding that “performance in respect of race and diversity be measured through a corporate measurement framework” or seeking to “facilitate the change process through the establishment of the development and organisation improvement team (DOIT)”.
Increasingly the Met resembles one of those extremist Left-wing councils of the 1980s. Recruitment policies are driven by skin colour and sex, above quality of applicant. The bias towards women and ethnic minority candidates is quite explicit, with priority given for training places towards those who speak a second language or “have knowledge or experience of a community group”. The goal is to have 25 per cent of the Met non-white by 2009, but even the National Black Police Association has said that this is “a ridiculous target”, for its achievement would require 80 per cent of new recruits to be black or Asian over the next four years. And 35 per cent of current recruits are female, hardly an inspiring thought given the soaring levels of violent crime on the streets of the capital.
Indeed, the Met is now quite explicit about its enthusiasm for social engineering. Its Confidence and Equality Strategy paper, published last month, states, “mainstreaming diversity is essentially about creating a fairer society in its widest sense, when everyone can participate and have the opportunity to realise their full potential”.
This kind of socialist utopianism is nothing to do with crime, but it now permeates the Met’s work. So, typically, the Met runs a fashion show at Tate Modern, costing £110,000 for disaffected teenagers in Southwark. In the same vein, Scotland Yard has asked Asian businesses to hire “vulnerable youngsters” from their own communities to divert them from crime, while senior Met officer Michael O’Keefe recently visited India to examine the concept of “corporate social responsibility”.
It is just as keen on gay rights, and will be one of the key hosts for “Celebrate”, a European gay police conference in London at the end of the month. The central theme is the “ability to actively celebrate difference, not merely to tolerate or even respect it”. The Met is also to be represented at the “Big Gay Out” festival in London next month.
The tragedy of all this activity is that it is severely detracting from the central job of the police in protecting society. The British public spends £2.7 billion on the Met, which now employs no fewer than 32,000 officers and 13,400 civilian staff. But, because of warped political priorities, the number of officers on patrol is minuscule, and rates of clear-up for crime remain dismally low. At September 2004, just 18.3 per cent of crimes were resolved, while the rate for burglary was 13.2 per cent and for robbery, 16 per cent.
It is no wonder that the middle-classes in London have lost faith in the police. Once the police could be regarded as their allies in the provision of security and the protection of property; today they are in the vanguard of the social revolution.
Meanwhile, the police officers’ trade union, the Police Federation, exploits the atmosphere of victimhood to entrench its position, upholding outdated working practices and systematic abuses. Where manufacturing and the private sector were forced to change over the past three decades, the Metropolitan police service remains one of the last bastions of the producer-led culture, its workforce abusing its monopoly position as flagrantly as the nationalised industries of the Seventies. That is why rates of absenteeism—currently an average of 7.4 days a year for police officers and 9.3 days for civilian staff—remain so high. And there is no sign of change.
Management is just as big an appeaser of its own failing workforce as it is of criminality. The public, which pays for this farce and has to suffer ever-increasing crime, deserves better.