White policeman sacked after racist `joke' protest

THE COMMISSION for Racial Equality is backing the case of a white policeman who was offended by racist material said to have been shown to him by a senior colleague.

Paul Rice, who worked as a forest-keeper at Epping Forest, north-east London, a policing post with the powers of a constable, was dismissed after a dispute which, he said, began when he objected to the material. His industrial tribunal case for unfair dismissal has been backed by the commission, and Scotland Yard's Black Police Association said it was taking a keen interest in the proceedings.

The dispute began in February last year, when Martin Whitfield, a supervisor, allegedly showed Mr Rice - whose wife is Malaysian Chinese - and a colleague, Leigh Tierney, a fake ethnic monitoring form purporting to be from the London borough of Newham, which contained such terms as "coons", "wogs" and "niggers". Mr Whitfield is said to have found it amusing.

According to Mr Rice, both he and Mr Tierney, who is also white, told Mr Whitfield they objected to him showing the material, which, they warned, was a breach of the Public Order Act. They complained to the Epping Forest management.

The reaction, said Mr Rice, ranged from inaction to attempts to play down the affair. After a three-week delay in obtaining an official response, Mr Rice and Mr Tierney sought the advice of the Metropolitan Police, which described it as a serious matter and logged the incident as a crime. An investigation was started.

But the Epping Forest authorities rejected Mr Rice's view that Mr Whitfield's alleged actions should lead to a criminal investigation and held instead that the case should be treated as an issue of harassment. The Superintendent of Epping Forest, John Besent, subsequently ruled that it did not even amount to harassment, and should be a matter for internal disciplinary procedure.

Soon afterwards Mr Rice was told by the Metropolitan Police that they were discontinuing their inquiries because they had been assured that the Epping Forest management was dealing with the matter internally.

Mr Rice said that while he continued to protest about the attitude of the management, he was unfairly treated and victimised. Mr Whitfield, who was his line manager, sent him on lone foot patrols in what he considered to be the busiest parts of the forest without, he maintained, adequate back-up.

The dispute also personally affected Mr Rice and his wife, Ming. Aissa, their 16-year-old daughter, left home, and Mr Rice was diagnosed as suffering from a stress-related illness. In May he was dismissed, also losing the home that came with his job. Mrs Rice also had to give up her job temporarily, because of stress.

In his tribunal hearing, scheduled for November, Mr Rice, 40, will be seeking compensation for loss of earnings and an apology for the allegedly racially offensive behaviour.

The Corporation of London, which owns Epping Forest, and runs the policing operation, denies Mr Rice's claims. The forest management admits the incident involving racist material occurred but denies there was any attempt to cover it up or that he had been victimised.

Mr Rice said: "I am astonished that in these times, after the Lawrence inquiry, this sort of attitude is still allowed to exist. Apart from finding the material shown to me personally offensive, I was also very saddened that the management did not seem to grasp how serious this kind of racist attitude is. It was not just me, a lot of my colleagues, who are white, are also very aggrieved by what had happened."

A Corporation of London spokeswoman said: "We can confirm Mr Rice has decided to pursue a case of unfair dismissal on grounds of racial discrimination and victimisation, and a hearing has been set ... Under the circumstances we do not wish to say any more than that."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there