Black woman police chief takes force to tribunal for racism

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's highest-ranking black woman police officers is to take the Greater Manchester force to an employment tribunal, alleging racial and sexual discrimination.

One of Britain's highest-ranking black woman police officers is to take the Greater Manchester force to an employment tribunal, alleging racial and sexual discrimination.

Chief Inspector Karin Mulligan was the first black female in the country to achieve her rank but she will claim that prejudice in the force has prevented her from rising higher. The Greater Manchester force is still investigating the findings of the BBC television documentary Secret Policeman, which exposed racism by secretly filming young officers at a training school in Cheshire.

Chief Inspector Mulligan is bringing her claim against several named officers and the Chief Constable, Michael Todd, whom she is expected to say was liable for their behaviour. She will claim sexual and racial discrimination and unfairness over flexible working practices. The case, to be heard in Manchester at the end of October, is scheduled to last 15 days.

Research last year by Dr Nirmal Puwar, of University College Northampton, suggested that Britain's small number of black women officers suffered racial and sexual abuse. Only 733 of Britain's 22,381 female police personnel are from black and ethnic minority communities, the British Association of Women in Policing says. Only a dozen of them hold senior positions.

Chief Inspector Mulligan has launched action against Greater Manchester Police before. In 1996, she and a colleague received a £1,000 payout over a poster which was displayed in a police station, but the matter did not go to tribunal.

The latest action relates to more general alleged discrimination. The officer is believed to be claiming that sex and race were factors in her failing to achieve higher rank and that she was discriminated against when the force instigated disciplinary proceedings against her over an allegation that she broke force rules. After an inquiry by the force's discipline and complaints department, she was officially given "advice" about her behaviour, but no further action was taken.

Ms Mulligan has been a police officer for 22 years. She has worked in the CID and in child protection and now heads the force's learning technology section. Her solicitor, Binder Bansel, of the London firm Pattinson and Brewer, said she was pursuing three claims against the chief constable and other officers. Ms Mulligan declined to comment.

Charles Crichlow, chairman of Greater Manchester's Black Police Association, said Chief Inspector Mulligan was a highly respected figure among colleagues and the ethnic community. He added: "Karin Mulligan is an extremely bright and experienced police officer. She is popular in the force and also in the black community of Manchester. They will be extremely angry and upset about this. The tribunal will be devastating for the force."

The force is also investigating video footage presented to Manchester magistrates in February which seemed to show Delbo King, 33, a former paratrooper, being assaulted by police as he was held down on a pavement. An officer has been suspended from frontline duties pending investigation. Four years ago, Sir David Wilmot, then chief constable, called the force "institutionally racist".

* Noella Huggins, 37, a black police office clerk was awarded £8,000 yesterday at a remedies hearing after claiming that the Chief Constable of Gwent failed to act after her race discrimination complaints. She was also awarded £3,867 interest.