Met Police Hit by Claim It Operated Segregated Vans for Black and White Officers

Sean O’Neill, Times of London, February 25, 2009

An “apartheid” system of discrimination and racist bullying operated at a London police station, according to claims made yesterday on the tenth anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report.

An Asian police community support officer alleged that he and other ethnic minority officers were made to travel separately from white officers.

Asad Saeed, who will make his claims at an employment tribunal tomorrow, told in legal documents how one officer ordered a black woman colleague to get out of his patrol vehicle and into “the black van”.

Mr Saeed said that ethnic minority officers were subjected to threats of violence and that he was the target of “malicious allegations” that led to disciplinary action after complaining of racist behaviour by two white colleagues. One, he claimed, “would regularly boast that his family members were part of the British National Party”.

The emergence of Mr Saeed’s allegations forced Sir Paul Stephenson to make last-minute changes to his first public speech as Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Sir Paul’s address had been billed as a trenchant defence of progress and change in the Met. But he had to concede that there were “remaining pockets of stupidity and bigotry”.

Met sources confirmed that the passage had not been inserted until after Sir Paul became aware of Mr Saeed’s claims yesterday morning.

Mr Saeed’s claims are contained in papers submitted to the Central London Employment Tribunal. The documents recount how Mr Saeed, a British Muslim, began his community support training in January 2007 with the intention of becoming a full police officer after 12 months.

In February that year he was posted to Belgravia police station in Central London and assigned to a team. He alleges that on joining the team other black and ethnic minority officers told him that two white community support officers were openly racist.

Ten days later Mr Saeed reported the behaviour of the two officers to his inspector and named one as a racist.

He specified an incident the previous day when he claimed that a black woman officer had been ordered to get out of one patrol van and into “the black van”, in which were the claimant and another black colleague. After the woman’s ejection the van contained only white officers. The claimant reported that there was an “apartheid” culture among the community support officers at Belgravia.

Mr Saeed’s complaints coincided with allegations against him by the two officers named in his complaint. They claimed that he had mistreated a vagrant who had been causing trouble at a McDonald’s restaurant in Victoria Street, close to the Met’s headquarters at New Scotland Yard.

A white inspector who investigated the allegations against Mr Saeed noted that “he appears to be putting forward that this is a racist matter against him . . . in my opinion this is a smokescreen but I am sure it is a matter he will try and exploit”.

Mr Saeed was suspended after the allegations against him and subjected to a disciplinary interview in July 2007. He repeated his claims of racism at the interview and claimed that he was a whistleblower but that his complaints had been “abruptly dismissed”.

In addition to his claims of racist threats and intimidation, Mr Saeed’s complaints also included allegations against colleagues gambling in the station common room, the sale of counterfeit merchandise, assaults on homeless people and falsification of “stop and account” forms.

At a full disciplinary hearing in February last year, three community support officers testified that the officers who had accused Mr Saeed had displayed racist behaviour towards them.

The Public and Commercial Services union supported Mr Saeed and warned the Met the case against him seemed to be racially motivated and that there was a “potential miscarriage of justice”. Brian Simmons, a union official, wrote that the disciplinary proceedings were “short-sighted”.

Despite those warnings Mr Saeed was dismissed from the force. But the senior officer conducting the hearing also noted in a confidential e-mail that there was some credence to his allegations of racist behaviour.

The disciplinary panel was alarmed that other ethnic minority officers had experienced racism but did not report it as they did not believe that their concerns would be investigated properly.

It noted: “The panel found this quite disturbing and it appeared the lessons of ‘Lawrence’ were in need of re-learning, particularly for members of the organisation who did not live through the changes made by the Met in the wake of the Lawrence inquiry.”

Mr Saeed was reinstated after an appeal. But he is concerned that official reprimands on his service record will prevent him from progressing to become a full police officer. He is seeking a declaration from the tribunal that he has been subjected to unlawful race discrimination and a review of the disciplinary action against him.

The two white officers he complained about have since resigned after being charged with offences of gross misconduct, a police source said.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said it intended to defend itself against Mr Saeed’s claims of race discrimination.

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