The Metropolitan Police's most senior Asian officer was suspended from duty yesterday in a dramatic escalation of his dispute with the Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.
Sir Ian announced that Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur had been told to take "authorised leave of absence" from his post because of fears that his statements to the media were affecting the "operational effectiveness" of the force.
But Mr Ghaffur accused the Met of "wilful acts of victimisation" against him because he had complained about racism in the force. "Accordingly I shall be discussing with my lawyers the need to commence further proceedings," he said.
His suspension appears to run contrary to a recommendation made by an extraordinary meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority professional standards cases sub-committee just 24 hours earlier, which said there were no grounds to suspend Mr Ghaffur.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, backed the move, saying: "This is a necessary move to restore confidence that the operational efficiency of the Met Police is not compromised."
But a spokesman for the Black Police Association accused Sir Ian of victimising Mr Ghaffur. "The message this sends to black and minority ethnic officers and staff is clear. Exercise your right to challenge unfairness and discrimination at your peril," he said.
Sir Ian said the decision to relieve Mr Ghaffur of his duties had nothing to do with his employment tribunal case against the Met, but was because of his "personal conduct" and his "media campaign" against the force.
"I have reflected whether operational effectiveness, leadership and confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service as an organisation and the security and safety concerns of Londoners are being affected. It is clear this is having a negative impact on the London 2012 Olympic security programme and risks undermining confidence in it. The interests of Londoners are not being well served by this current situation. Accordingly, I have decided that AC Tarique Ghaffur be temporarily relieved of his responsibilities although he will remain an Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service."
Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson complained to the Metropolitan Police Authority's professional standards cases sub-committee about Mr Ghaffur at the meeting on Monday. He asked it to consider whether by calling a press conference on 28 August Mr Ghaffur had been guilty of misconduct.
The committee found there were potential grounds for misconduct and will appoint a chief constable to investigate.
But the committee's members found the grounds for suspension had not been met, prompting surprise at today's move.
Dee Doocey, a Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, said she was "stunned" by the decision. "I fail to see any difference between suspension and being forced to give up your command.
"I'm very concerned that despite the sub-committee finding there were no grounds for suspension, the following morning Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur is relieved of his duties. The Commissioner hasn't produced a shred of evidence to prove this and I'd suggest there's a much larger negative impact by his continuing tenure at the top of the Met."
Insiders insist that Mr Ghaffur feels he has been the target of a campaign to deny him further promotion. Meanwhile Sir Ian is said to be furious that an officer he agreed with on so many issues is now playing the race card against him.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison is to take over Mr Ghaffur's role "with immediate effect".