Officer sacked after he made race protest

THE COMMISSION for Racial Equality is backing the case of a white policeman who was offended by racist material said to have been shown to him by a senior colleague.

Paul Rice, who worked as a forest-keeper at Epping Forest, north-east London, a policing post with the powers of a constable, was dismissed after a dispute which, he said, began when he objected to the material. His industrial tribunal case for unfair dismissal has been backed by the commission. Scotland Yard's Black Police Association said it was taking a keen interest in the proceedings.

The dispute began in February last year when Martin Whitfield, a supervisor, allegedly showed Mr Rice - whose wife is Malaysian Chinese - and a colleague, Leigh Tierney, a fake ethnic monitoring form purporting to be from the London borough of Newham, which contained such terms as "coons", "wogs" and "niggers". Mr Whitfield is said to have found it amusing.

According to Mr Rice, both he and Mr Tierney, who is also white, complained to the Epping Forest management. The reaction, said Mr Rice, ranged from inaction to attempts to play down the affair. Mr Rice said that while he continued to protest about the attitude of the management, he was unfairly treated and victimised.

The dispute also personally affected Mr Rice and his wife, Ming. Aissa, their 16-year-old daughter, left home, and Mr Rice was diagnosed as suffering from a stress-related illness. In May he was dismissed, also losing the home that came with his job. Mrs Rice had to give up her job temporarily, because of stress.

At the tribunal, scheduled for November, Mr Rice, 40, will seek compensation for loss of earnings and an apology for the allegedly racially offensive behaviour. "I am astonished that in these times, after the Lawrence inquiry, this sort of attitude is still allowed to exist," he said.

The Corporation of London, which owns Epping Forest, and runs the policing operation, denies Mr Rice's claims. The forest management admits the incident involving racist material occurred but denies there was any attempt to cover it up or that he had been victimised.