Refugee who became London's fourth most senior policeman

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The Independent Online

At the age of 45 Tarique Ghaffur has broken several barriers and records to become one of the most senior police officers in the country.

At the age of 45 Tarique Ghaffur has broken several barriers and records to become one of the most senior police officers in the country.

The man who arrived in Britain as a teenager from Idi Amin's Uganda is now a deputy assistant commissioner in the Met, the joint-fourth most powerful police post in London. But more significantly he is the most senior ethnic minority officer at Scotland Yard, when the force is recovering from the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry report and while it is under pressure to recruit thousands of new non-white officers.

He heads the prestigious and vast borough of Westminster, which takes in the West End and has responsibility for policing units for the whole of London such as on traffic, dogs, and territorial support.

Throughout Mr Ghaffur's career, which he started aged 20, he has had to live under the pressure of being the "highest-ranking non-white policeman". He was that in Manchester when he took his sergeant's exams after four tough years on the street and undercover in Salford. In 1989, he was Britain's highest-ranking nonwhite policeman as a superintendent in Leicestershire, and again as an assistant chief constable in Lancashire.

He acknowledged recently that as a high-profile figure he was bound to be a target of racists, and said he receives hate mail. "Racism - deliberate, overt, covert, caused by ignorance - is always there," he said.

He joined the Met as Deputy Assistant Commissioner in November 1999 after a spell in the post as the Director of the Police Information Technology Organisation. He says that a reason for his success is that he is keen to be seen first not as a career ethnic minority officer, but as a good policeman.

He said in a recent interview: "I've just taken a longer-term view, and said that if you can become a good police officer, a good police manager, you show by example." He added: "There's no doubt that I've had to work harder, been more closely assessed; there's a lot of curiosity about how I've had my success."

In July 2000, he took over the reins as borough commander in Westminster and along with it the Lindo inquiry.

He is married with two children and is a keen sportsman.

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