'Jealous' rivals try to smear gay police chief

Whispering campaign - False stories about officer circulate after his bold move on cannabis
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The Independent Online

Commander Brian Paddick, Britain's highest-ranking openly gay police officer, is being subjected to a smear campaign.

Mr Paddick's supporters claimed yesterday that fellow officers, motivated by homophobia, professional jealousy – or both – had deliberately undermined him.

The borough commander in Lambeth, south London, has attracted huge publicity, most of it positive, for his liberalising stance on dealing with cannabis possession. Since last summer, people caught in possession of cannabis in Lambeth have not been subject to arrest. Instead the drug is confiscated.

The wide attention his new policy has received has, it was claimed last night, prompted a whispering campaign against him.

In recent months, Mr Paddick has been falsely accused of corruption over the use of a staff car while at a previous police borough. The claim was investigated prior to his appointment at Lambeth and dismissed as scurrilous.

His partner has also been accused of working for the secret services, supposedly compromising Mr Paddick's position as well as "national security". In fact, Mr Paddick's partner works in a Gucci store in central London.

There have also been anonymous phone calls to newspaper reporters claiming Mr Paddick recently left his wife and ran off with another man. In fact the couple split up "by mutual consent" 13 years ago. Nevertheless, a reporter from a tabloid newspaper turned up on the front door of the former home of Mr Paddick's ex-wife just before Christmas. The policeman's supporters question how the reporter obtained the address.

It is understood officers who have been promoted to new jobs in Lambeth have subsequently turned the posts down, fearful that working with Mr Paddick will count against them later on in the Metropolitan Police. There have also been recent attempts to reduce the number of officers in Lambeth by about 100, following a London-wide review of policing needs.

An official report on policing in Lambeth by HM Inspectors of Constabulary is expected in coming weeks. One person who has seen the report says it supports Mr Paddick's efforts in Lambeth but will still contain strong criticisms of the borough's policing problems – not least the high rate of muggings which is just about the worst in the country. It is thought Mr Paddick's opponents may try to use the report to unseat him and press for the introduction of a "hit squad" to get crime levels down.

Jane Warwick, administrator on Lambeth's community police consultative group, which was set up in the wake of the Brixton riots in the early Eighties, said: "I believe he has been the victim of a whispering campaign. I have voiced those concerns to other group members.

"There seems to me to be backstabbing going on against Mr Paddick. There is a lot of jealousy because Brian is high profile and the cannabis experiment has been successful – and that is getting reported in newspapers."

Jennifer Douglas, former chair of the consultative group, said: "Brian is the only senior officer who has been willing to be open, honest and trustworthy and that has gone down well with the Lambeth community.

"He has had all this high profile stuff in relation to cannabis which has got lots of media attention – and as his profile has grown within the community and the media, the whispering campaign against him also grew."

Besides the slurs and false accusations, Ms Douglas said it had been made known to her that attempts were being made to oust Mr Paddick from his position.

"Some of it is rumour. But I am aware he has been excluded from things that are going on in the borough," she said.

One member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "I don't know of any direct whispering campaign and I have no evidence of that but what I am aware of is some considerable tensions around Brian and the way he is able to get media attention."

Mr Paddick refused to comment on the slurs or the allegations of a campaign against him. "I have always been open with the Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, about my sexuality and he has been 100 per cent supportive," he said.