Metropolitan Police’s ethnic recruitment processes under scrutiny

A WATCHDOG has launched an inquiry into whether the Metropolitan Police department responsible for improving the recruitment and retention of ethnic officers is shredding damaging documents about the selection process.

The claim will feature in a case brought by a high profile Asian detective involved in the longest running discrimination dispute within the Met. Detective sergeant Gurpal Virdi is suing the force for the fifth time after he was passed over for promotion to inspector.

His lawyers will argue that privately the Met still believe he is guilty of sending racist emails to colleagues, despite two independent tribunals clearing him nine years ago.

The Met has already admitted to the employment tribunal that the notes taken by Virdi’s promotion panel last year were “shredded in error.”

The Sikh detective told The Sunday Times: “I am the Colin Stagg of the Met [referring to the man wrongly accused of killing the model Rachel Nickell in 1992]. Everyone knows I’m innocent and the Met are not accepting it. It would appear that senior people have something to hide. The commissioner needs to hold people to account rather than cover up”.

The Black Police Assocation, which has boycotted ethnic recruitment to the Met, is supporting Virdi.

Further pressure has come from another influential staff association that represents 2,200 inspectors and chief inspectors. Mark Crake, general secretary of the Inspectors Branch Board, says he has direct evidence that the shredding goes beyond the Virdi case.

Crake complained internally about the human resources department for allegedly ordering the destruction of a key document concerning the recent selection of chief inspectors. No ethnic minority candidate was successful, he said.

“What does it say to the wider community about the values of the Met if the retention of important documentation is treated with such contempt and disdain?,” Clark told his members in a recent email.

In a statement, the Met denied it was getting rid of the evidence. It said: “That is simply ridiculous, electronic copies of all documents remain as a matter of public record. Hard copies were destroyed so they could not be duplicated.”

Cindy Butts, an independent member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: “I am aware of certain issues relating to the recent promotion process and the retention of documentation and consequently I have asked the Met to bring a report to the committee I chair.”

Butts is already leading an inquiry into the Met, which is examining ethnic recruitment. London mayor Boris Johnson launched it last October after a spate of race claims plunged the Met into a leadership crisis which culminated in the early departure of Sir Ian Blair , the commissioner, in December.

The Home Office is currently selecting his replacement and will announce the appointment by the end of this month. However, two of the shortlisted candidates – Sir Paul Stephenson, the acting Met commissioner, and Bernard Hogan-Howe, the chief constable of Merseyside – have been drawn into this latest round in the eleven-year Virdi affair.

His employment tribunal will be heard next month on the tenth anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, which found the Met to be “institutionally racist.”

The Met says it has made great strides in recognising its failings since the black teenager was murdered in 1993. However, critics argue that the force is either paying lip service to race issues or has mired police officers in political correctness and paperwork.

In 1998, the Met arrested Virdi claiming he had sent racist hate mail to himself and other ethnic minority officers because he was passed over for promotion. In 2000, the force publicly apologised, accepted his innocence and compensated Virdi after an employment tribunal ruled he had been discriminated against.

The case led to the setting up of two public inquiries, which criticised the way the Met investigated its black and Asian staff.

Virdi has supplied his new tribunal with a letter written by Hogan-Howe in 2004 when he was the Met’s assistant commissioner for human resources. It assured the officer that a secret report still suggesting he was guilty of sending the racist emails would be “disregarded” when considering his future promotion.

However, Virdi, 50, says he was passed over for promotion in 2005 and 2007 because panels are privately briefed that he is guilty and a “trouble maker”. He said: “Until we get that person who sent the racist emails we cannot move forward.”

The Met has refused to re-open that investigation. During mediation ten days ago it claimed Virdi was not promoted because he lacks the necessary competences as an inspector. The Met offered to settle his action – and two other related claims – for a small sum of money. Virdi, who has served 27 years in the Met, refused because promotion was not part of the deal.

A spokeswoman for the Met said: “DS Virdi has served a claim on the MPS in August 2008. It is a claim of race discrimination and victimisation arising out of the 2008 Sergeant to Inspector promotion process. Efforts to resolve these matters have been unsuccessful and this claim is due to be heard by the Tribunal on 13th to 23rd February 2009. The MPS will defend this claim.”

(source: Michael Gillard http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5536683.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1)

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit http://www.pinnacleproactive.com

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