Inquiry says radical reform needed on police discrimination

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The Independent Online

Black and Asian officers in the Metropolitan Police are being discriminated against, with far more ethnic minority staff facing disciplinary action, an independent inquiry has concluded.

Black and Asian officers in the Metropolitan Police are being discriminated against, with far more ethnic minority staff facing disciplinary action, an independent inquiry has concluded.

The report expressed concern that there was no common understanding of diversity within Britain's biggest force and that it remained "at worst a source of fear and anxiety, and at best a process of ticking boxes".

The inquiry, led by Sir Bill Morris, called for radical changes to the national disciplinary system. It also found evidence of discrimination among the lower ranks against women, Christians, Muslims, Jews and the disabled. It also warned that some white officers were so disillusioned with what they believed was a system biased against them that there was the "beginnings of a backlash" - with growing numbers claiming racial discrimination.

The inquiry was set up by the Metropolitan Police Authority to look at policies and procedures used for dealing with complaints and allegations. It followed criticism over the handling of a number of high-profile cases involving ethnic minority officers, including Superintendent Ali Dizaei who was cleared of allegations of dishonesty at the Old Bailey last year following a multi-million pound police-corruption inquiry.

The criticism of diversity issues within the Met comes five years after the Macpherson inquiry into race relations and the murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence.

The Morris Inquiry report, called The Case For Change, says: "The statistics indicate clear disproportionality in the way black and minority ethnic officers are treated in relation to management of their conduct." Black and Asian officers are more than twice as likely to be investigated by the Met following a complaint, compared to white colleagues. But the proportion of black and Asian officers sacked as a result of a disciplinary hearing is slightly less than white colleagues.

Part of the explanation given was that managers were fearful of dealing with complaints involving ethnic-minority officers, so they were more often referred to a formal hearing, rather than dealt with informally. The report also expressed concern about the use of what a senior officer called "the al Capone model" in which the Met's anti-corruption squad tried to prosecute an officer suspected of serious wrongdoing of any offence, regardless of the original allegation.

The inquiry team called on the Commissioner of the Met to order a review of the 600-strong corruption and disciplinary unit to ensure that the squad was fully accountable and acting lawfully.

The document contains more than 100 recommendations, including the appointment of a new civilian post at deputy commissioner level to deal with staff management rather than crime. The findings have been referred to the Commission for Racial Equality.

The Deputy Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, said he supported the proposals for a new disciplinary system. "We want root and branch reform," he said.