Race claim police chief is suspended

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The Independent Online

A senior Metropolitan Police officer who claims he suffered racial discrimination at the hands of his bosses in the force was suspended today, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Tarique Ghaffur has been placed on "authorised leave" because of fears that his statements to the media were affecting the "operational effectiveness" of the force, Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said.

Chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, Alfred John, said Mr Ghaffur was being "victimised" by Sir Ian Blair.



In a statement, Mr Blair said the decision had nothing to do with Mr Ghaffur's employment tribunal case against the Met, but was because of his "personal conduct" and his "media campaign" against the force.

He said: "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 also clear this is having a negative impact on the London 2012 Olympic security programme and risks undermining confidence in it.

"Certainly, it is the case that the interests of Londoners are not being well served by this current situation.

"Accordingly, I have decided that, for the time being, AC Tarique Ghaffur be temporarily relieved of his responsibilities although he will remain an Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the decision has nothing to do with his actions in filing the employment tribunal application or the fact that he has made the allegations which are the subject matter of the employment tribunal claim.

"Rather, my decision results from the way in which he has chosen to conduct himself, for example by the manner in which statements were made in his press conference, and in conducting a media campaign, both personally and through the advisers and organisations supporting him."





Chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, Alfred John, said Mr Ghaffur was being "victimised" by Sir Ian Blair.

The Commissioner's reasons for the suspension were "utter nonsense", he added.

Mr John said: "The Met BPA is extremely disappointed that Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has been victimised in this manner by Sir Ian Blair.

"The message that this sends to black and minority ethnic officers and staff is clear - 'Exercise your right to challenge unfairness and discrimination at your own peril.

"'You will not be listened to and you and your supporters are likely to be victimised'.

"The Met BPA will continue to work with all partners and agencies to eradicate discrimination and to provide a healthy and safe working environment for all staff within the Met."

Mr John attacked Sir Ian's suggestion that his decision was made because of Mr Ghaffur's conduct.

"We think that is complete and utter nonsense," Mr John said.

"It is unprecedented - look at how many tribunals are brought against the Met and no-one is ever told to go on gardening leave.

"This move was something we expected, because that is the way minorities are treated in the Met. And that is a sad statement to have to make."



Mr Blair said he regretted having to make the decision and still wanted to resolve the dispute through mediation.

He said: "It is a matter of regret that I have had to take this action but I want to make it clear that we still want to find a way to resolve his issues through a mediated process."



Peter Herbert, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, said he was "astonished" by the decision and accused the Met of "bullying and harassment" against Mr Ghaffur.

He said the decision would be seen as "racial victimisation" by an employment tribunal.

"I have advised the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in recent months that the leaking of damaging comments and statements against the Assistant Commissioner would almost certainly amount to racial victimisation and be seen as such by an employment tribunal.

"This advice clearly has been ignored and the public statements both by the MPS and the MPA leadership in my view amount to bullying and harassment which have little or nothing to do with policing in London.

"The message to black and minority police officers is that no matter how senior you are, no matter how talented you are and no matter how long you have served in the MPS, your presence will not be tolerated if you for one moment are seen to step out of line."





Sir Ian's statement said Mr Ghaffur's suspension covered his role on the Met's Central Operations Directorate, his membership of the management board and involvement in Olympic Games security.

He said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison would take over both Central Operations command and Olympic security "with immediate effect".



Last month Mr Ghaffur held a press conference in a central London hotel to detail allegations of race, religious and age discrimination against the force.

He pointed the finger of blame directly at Sir Ian who, he said, had sidelined him from his Olympic security role.

His statement brought a swift rebuke from the Met, with Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson calling publicly for Mr Ghaffur to "shut up" and get on with his job.

The war of words between the two sides continued last week as Mr Ghaffur's lawyer claimed he had to bring in private security because he feared for his client's life.

He said Mr Ghaffur had received death threats and accused Sir Paul of "inciting hatred" against Britain's most senior Asian policeman.



The Mayor of London Boris Johnson backed the move, saying it was in the best interests of policing in London.

He said: "This is a necessary move in order to restore confidence that the operational efficiency of the Met Police is not compromised.

"I have no intention of getting involved in employment tribunals or other inquiries but I am totally supportive of this action."



A spokesman for the Metropolitan Black Police Association accused Sir Ian of victimising Mr Ghaffur.

He said: "The message that this sends to black and minority ethnic officers and staff is clear: 'Exercise your right to challenge unfairness and discrimination at your own peril. You will not be listened to and you and your supporters are likely to be victimised'.

"The Metropolitan Black Police Association will continue to work with all partners and agencies to eradicate discrimination and to provide a healthy and safe working environment for all staff within the MPS."

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