'If you complain about racism, your career is finished,' says Met detective Gurpal Singh Virdi

New Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has promised to drive racism out of the force. But one officer, sacked after being smeared by his colleagues, believes his words are hollow

An Asian police officer whose career was thwarted by institutional discrimination has dismissed promises by Britain's highest-ranking officer to drive out racism within the Scotland Yard as mere "lip service".

Detective Sergeant Gurpal Singh Virdi will today hand in his warrant card and become what he describes as one of only a dozen or so ethnic-minority police officers to survive 30 years with Britain's largest police force.

Last month the Met's Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, vowed to become an "implacable enemy" of racists within Scotland Yard, promising to "drive them out of the Met". But DS Virdi, whose career has been defined by a racially motivated character assassination and a subsequent smear campaign by his own colleagues, says he doesn't believe the Met has changed. He will leave today without even an exit interview.

Speaking to The Independent, the retiring officer said: "The Met never wants to learn lessons from people like me. It's more likely they will be getting out the champagne."

The 53-year-old was sacked in 1998 after being erroneously charged with sending racist, National Front hate mail to black colleagues at Ealing police station. His house was searched for seven hours in the presence of his children.

DS Virdi says the raid, authorised by then Deputy Commissioner John Stevens, came weeks after he had threatened to go over the head of his superiors regarding what he felt was a sloppy investigation of a racist, near-fatal stabbing of an Iraqi and an Indian boy by five white males. DS Virdi had pointed out the parallels between the investigation and that into Stephen Lawrence's murder five years earlier; weeks later he was arrested and suspended.

"My career finished in 1998," he said. "As soon as you raise your head above the parapet, your career is finished, and everyone in the police service knows that... Most people keep silent because they know that, even if you complain, the investigation won't be done properly... That hasn't changed."

It took a year for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him, not least because the racist mail continued while Virdi sat at home.

Nevertheless, Scotland Yard seemed determined to make an example of him, perfectly timed to coincide with the bashing they were getting in the Lawrence public inquiry, and he was sacked in 2000. Later that year an employment tribunal found that the Met's investigation had racially discriminated against DS Virdi.

Unlike his white colleagues, it ruled, he had been subjected to an entrapment operation, been formally interviewed, had his house searched, been arrested and suspended "without sufficient evidence to support the allegations". He was awarded a six-figure settlement, mainly for the "high-handed" way the Yard had behaved and the way it had manipulated media coverage.

The Independent Advisory Group, which monitors the Met's performance on race crime, described the investigation as "disgraceful" and "a high-profile character assassination". In 2001, DS Virdi and his wife, Sathat, were assured by the then Commissioner, John Stevens, that lessons had been learnt, and he was sent an apology. An independent inquiry by the newly formed Metropolitan Police Authority concluded that there had been a smear campaign against him.

The Yard denied the MPA access to its media strategy file on Virdi, but claims that it was clear that the Daily Mail's Crime Correspondent had been the chief recipient of the Yard's drip-feed, including leaked private legal correspondence. In 2007, he received an apology and legal costs from the Daily Mail for a libellous article about him in 2006.

DS Virdi went back to the Met in 2002 against the wishes of his wife. In 2004 DS Virdi was assured by Lord Stevens and Mr Hogan-Howe, then assistant commissioner for human resources, that his career would not suffer as a result of a negative internal report claiming there was still "strong evidence" of his guilt.

For the past five years, he says he has "pushed pen around paper" for the Met's Sikh Association, in the redeployment pool awaiting a suitable post. "I had to go back and face them; I am not the type of person to run away," he said. "I wanted to do 30 years, and I'm glad that I've done it. I've enjoyed what I've done, but feel sad as I could have done so much more. I have been stopped from reaching my potential."

Over the past five years, DS Virdi says he has supported a number of ethnic minority officers, from trainees to high-ranking officials, who have made allegations of racism but do not believe their complaints were properly investigated.

"The majority of allegations of racism and corruption have not been properly investigated – in fact they usually protect the racists rather than the victims," he said. "That has not changed.

"There have only been a dozen people, including mixed-race officers, who have survived 30 years. Most of them realise that their careers will never go anywhere and so they just go."

Born in India, Virdi grew up in Southall, west London. His father served in Delhi police, but when Virdi joined the Met in 1982, it was against his parents' wishes. He had an unblemished career in uniformed, CID and specialist squads until he was arrested in 1998.

Despite all that has happened, he says he has no regrets about returning to the police. "I can leave today with my head held high, as I can honestly say I didn't tolerate corruption or bad practice. There will be no leaving do. It wouldn't feel right after all that has happened and I wouldn't want my friends who have supported me to come to Scotland Yard as they might then be targeted."

The family will celebrate quietly in July on the day he carries the Olympic torch, and he is looking forward to writing, travelling and leaving his police career behind.

Virdi does not doubt the sincerity of Hogan-Howe's words, but he doesn't believe real change is possible because he maintains the current processes that deal with complaints of discrimination, and the people dealing with them, are set up to fail.

The officer, or officers, who were responsible for sending the racist hate mail in 1998 have never been found; the criminal case remains unsolved. "There is nothing stopping the Commissioner [Hogan-Howe] from reopening the case should he want to, but I don't think he will, because they won't like the answers."

The Met said it did not comment on individual cases, but pointed to the Commissioner's public statements on driving out racism.

Lawrence corruption review 'imminent'

The Metropolitan Police is expected to make an announcement this week about its review into allegations of corruption within the original Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry.

The review was set up after Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the teenager killed in 1993 by a white racist gang, called for the reopening of the public inquiry into the circumstances of his death.

Mrs Lawrence's request to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, followed publication in The Independent of previously unseen intelligence reports about Detective Sergeant John Davidson, who played a leading role in the hunt for the killers, which said he was involved in "all aspects of criminality".

A former Scotland Yard commander, Ray Adams, was also the subject of an inquiry, but the findings were not passed to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry panel.

Paul Peachey

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice