Mayor told Met racism probe is flawed

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The Independent Online

An investigation into alleged racism in Britain's largest police force is flawed before it has even begun, it was claimed today.

London Mayor Boris Johnson was told the inquiry will be expensive, unnecessary and vulnerable to accusations of bias.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) attacked Mr Johnson for announcing the inquiry unilaterally.

At his first meeting as chairman of the watchdog body Mr Johnson endured a series of attacks.

He was told an inquiry could undermine the credibility of the Met's response to rows with several senior ethnic minority officers.

Former chairman Len Duvall said the Authority itself was "not immune" from allegations of racism.

Mr Johnson was also accused of "usurping" his powers by forcing Commissioner Sir Ian Blair from office last week.

And he was warned potential successors may be frightened off by his apparently politically-charged intervention.

Speaking at City Hall, Lord Toby Harris said any race inquiry must be run independently to protect the Authority from claims of bias.

He said: "I am slightly concerned what we are in the process of doing is creating something that could be the world's biggest long grass job.

"Clearly there are issues and concerns but I have experience of setting up the Morris inquiry which was inspired by the Authority, but entirely independent.

"It took a long time, it was very expensive and we would be well placed to revisit some of the recommendations from that inquiry and some other inquiries that have taken place."

The meeting came as the Metropolitan Black Police Association (MetBPA) announced an ethnic minority recruitment boycott.

The group said "active discouragement" would continue during Black History Month and beyond

A spokesman said: "We will not put up or shut up to racism and inequality."

Mr Johnson said the inquiry, led by deputy MPA chairwoman Cindy Butts, will explore race and faith issues within the force.

Scotland Yard is already embroiled in an acrimonious race row with the country's most senior Asian police officer, Tarique Ghaffur.

Several weeks ago the MPA suspended Commander Ali Dizaei, president of the National Black Police Association, over alleged misconduct.

Following the criticisms, Mr Johnson said he would review how the race inquiry was handled.

He insisted he would work "hand in glove" with members of the MPA and wanted to make a fresh start.

Mr Johnson said the capital's police force must resemble the communities it served.

He said Ms Butts would examine the progress of ethnic minority recruits and leadership on race and faith issues.

Speaking about Sir Ian's resignation, Mr Johnson said a repeat of the situation was unlikely.

He said: "I think the chances of anything like this happening again are extremely, vanishingly remote.

"I thought with the position London policing was in, I thought it was the right thing to do and I think that the vast majority of people will agree with us."

He added: "What people want to do and what police in London want to do and officers at all levels in the Met want to do is move on and get on with making our streets safer.

"I think it is highly unlikely that the constitutional position will arise again and we will certainly not get into the business of micro managing the police.

"That is certainly not what we are here to do and it is not what I am here to do."

Mr Johnson said he wanted police to focus on combating teenage violence, knife crime and terrorism.

He said it was his job to support the Met's "fundamental duty" in reassuring Londoners that the streets were safe.

In a slip of the tongue, Mr Johnson accidentally promoted Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson.

He said: "I think we should seize this opportunity and get the Commissioner, Sir Paul, to make his report."

Mr Duvall said he was surprised Mr Johnson announced an inquiry without consulting the MPA.

He said: "Usually it is the Authority that decides what inquiries it is going to do."

Mr Duvall said the MPA has been accused of racism and should not leave itself vulnerable to further claims.

He said: "When someone from the MPA is leading this process there are people out there who will not be satisfied and always say there is something wrong.

"We as an organisation have not been immune from these charges, some of them may be absolutely right, some may not be right."

On Sir Ian's resignation, Mr Duvall, a fierce defender of the commissioner, added that the MPA is now in a "pretty messy" position.