England

Racism probe police officers 'avoid sack', FOI request reveals

Police officers Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Association of Chief Police Officers said forces also used advice and warnings to tackle racism

Hundreds of police officers who have had complaints of racism against them upheld in the past five years have avoided the sack, the BBC has learned.

Almost 800 complaints were upheld against officers in the UK since March 2010, estimates suggest. Twenty officers were dismissed.

Forces in the UK received complaints against more than 6,600 officers.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said forces used various tactics to tackle racism.

One victim said there should be a zero tolerance approach.

Former Clash roadie Don Lorenzo, from Birmingham, was awarded £17,000 in damages in October 2011 after he claimed he was racially abused and assaulted by West Midlands Police.

"I don't think the police want to face the prospect of having to sift out the bad apples," he said.

Image caption Former Clash roadie Don Lorenzo, awarded £17,000 in damages in October 2011, said he was not surprised by the figures

"It's the three blind monkey thing. If you want to be part of this, there are certain things you see and certain things you don't see.

"The police need to get tough. They need to start dealing with the stereotypes."

'No place for racists'

The details were revealed after Freedom of Information requests to 48 UK police forces: 43 in England and Wales, Police Scotland, Police Northern Ireland and three national forces.

Of the 20 officers sacked in the past five financial years starting 2009-10, 10 came from the Metropolitan Police, the largest force in England.

This included one officer who was racially abusive to a train inspector who would not allow his friends to travel free.

On another occasion, an off-duty detective constable was sacked after he picked up a pornographic magazine in a shop and made racist remarks to three Asian girls.

In separate incidents from other forces:

  • An officer in Kent was made to leave after sending offensive texts. Another was dismissed after making racist comments about a colleague.
  • In Surrey, an officer was sacked for inappropriate comments made on social media
  • A Greater Manchester Police officer was dismissed over racist comments he made over the phone.
  • Nottinghamshire Police said one of its officers was sacked for racist comments made during a briefing.
  • Police Scotland said three of its officers were "dismissed or required to resign"
  • Officers from Merseyside Police and British Transport Police also received their marching orders.

One officer serving with the Hampshire force was dismissed in 2009 for posting a racist comment on Facebook but the decision was overturned on appeal and the officer was reinstated, the force said.

Mr Lorenzo said anyone found to be racist should not be in the police force.

He added: "There needs to be trust between the police and the public and the only way they can achieve that is if they openly display that, when an incident happens, it's dealt with in a positive way and not pushed behind a door."

Acpo's national policing lead for complaints and misconduct, Deputy Chief Constable Alan Goodwin, said it was estimated 12% of allegations were upheld each year.

He said in cases in which allegations were upheld, officers could receive other disciplinary action such as management advice or warnings.

"Around 300 officers per year end their careers because of misconduct and, proportionally speaking, officers have a much higher chance of being dismissed where it is felt that there is a case to answer for racism," he said.

He said Acpo had a "determined mission to weed out discriminatory behaviour in the police service".

"There is no place in the police for racists and I encourage anyone from either inside or outside the service who sees an officer behave in a discriminatory way to report it, safe in the knowledge that there will be a full investigation and an appropriate outcome," he said.

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