Say one thing, do another

Earlier this month, a Liverpool Echo article announced that a Merseyside Police officer had been sacked for clearly using racist language during the stop and search of an Asian member of the public (read in full here).

It resonated immediately, as the racist term used by the young, inexperienced constable (it was his first ever stop) was identical to that, allegedly, uttered very recently by a senior officer in one of the three Yorkshire police forces. An incident that has created significant interest and commentary both within the subject police force and the wider police service, in which news of this nature appears to travel at lightning speed.

The officer’s name and rank are known, as, of course, is the police force. Never, it must be said, far from controversy. There is, however, a clear necessity to protect the identity of the miscreant, even by jigsaw means. The presumption of innocence must apply, as must data and privacy laws at this early stage of the investigation.

But the public interest requires that light be shone on this incident, particularly given the often ludicrous posturing of police leaders everywhere over diversity and inclusion.

At first blush, it appears that the force is going to try to ride out this controversy under a cover of secrecy. It is very, very important in terms of public confidence in the police service that they are not allowed to do so. It is simply unacceptable to spend millions promoting the recruitment from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities and then conceal racist officers within the senior ranks.

This is a summary of the racism allegation which, it is said, is now the subject of a complaint to the force by the victim:

The subject officer was on a Skype call from custody, who were seeking authorisation for an extension to the detention of a prisoner. After the decision was taken and matters concluded, s/he was unaware that the call was still open and proceeded to make at least one derogatory, racist remark about the DP, including the use of the term ‘Paki’. This was heard by at least one other supervisory officer; a constable (or, possibly, detention officer) and the prisoner. There is also said to be corroboration from custody staff and CCTV in the suite. It is assumed that a legal representative for the prisoner was also present.

Subsequently, it is said that the officer was frogmarched out of his/her office by PSD, escorted off the premises and told not to enter any other police premises or contact any other police officer, apart from the designated welfare officer (normally of similar or senior rank).

These actions, for those not familiar with Police Regulations, are the characteristics of a suspension, rather than gardening leave. However, it is known that s/he attended a week long residential course at the College of Policing in Ryton beginning on 30th November, 2020. The officer’s Twitter account after a hiatus in November, was briefly back in use last week.

There are several national newspapers trying to get the story past their lawyers and name the officer. There are very particular reasons why they would want to do so, given that officer’s role and wider profile. But the response of the police press office is not helpful. Although one of the reporters did mistakenly posit that the officer had been arrested.

“You have indicated that you intend to run a story which alleges that a senior officer has been arrested and suspended over a racial incident. I wish to immediately put you on notice that this information is incorrect.

“No senior officer has been arrested, suspended or subject to a criminal investigation. Should you proceed with a story, as outlined in your approach earlier today, then this would be inaccurate, misleading and very damaging both to the organisation and any individual police officers you decide to name.

“On the basis of the above clear position, we would be grateful if you would confirm, by return, that you will not seek to publish inaccurate or misleading information.

“Should it be indicated that you intend to publish such a story then we would ask for appropriate notice of this so that we can explore all immediate legal options together with a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, as the story you have indicated you intend to publish, would constitute a breach of your professional standards as outlined within the Editors Code of Practice as being both inaccurate, misleading and constitute an invasion of privacy.”

From other policing and media contacts, further information has emerged, more generally, about the subject officer’s alleged routine, narcissistic, bullying behaviour; fiddling crime figures (with tacit approval of the senior leadership team, allegedly), alleged abuse of authority, and reports of an altercation with a neighbour at home, in which there was pushing and shoving and damage to a vehicle.

S/he is said to have now left the marital home. The estranged spouse is also a well known, serving police officer.

It is, of course, difficult to foresee much, if any, of those accusations being progressed without whistleblowers within the force standing up to be counted, supported by the command team, and making witness statements. But the officer has plainly created a lot of ill-will amongst colleagues – and the perception is that the force has, it seems, done little to curb it.

There are also shades of the Mark Gilmore disciplinary proceedings here in that, once it became known within West Yorkshire Police that their chief constable was under investigation over one allegation, subordinates who felt abused, but cowed in his presence, made a series of other misconduct allegations around bullying and sexism (no finding was ever made and the ex-chief robustly denied he had done anything wrong). Gilmore eventually retired, on full gold-plated police pension, after spending over two years on gardening leave and then suspension. At first, he was found a ‘non-job’ at the National Police Chiefs Council, working remotely from home, in a vain attempt to disguise the fact that he had been removed from office. Largely defeated by the author of this piece.

The cost to the taxpayer of the Gilmore farrago was around £750,000. The damage to confidence in the police complaints system was much greater than that.

Further specific questions have been put to the police press office. The police watchdog has been asked to confirm whether a mandatory referral has been received by them from the subject force. The College of Policing is asked to confirm whether they knew of the allegations against the subject officer prior to attendance at the Public Order course.

This is a developing news story and will be updated. Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter here, and ‘Neil Wilby Media’ on Facebook here.

Since this article was fist published on 4th December, 2020, a Humberside Police officer has been sacked after admitting using racially abusive language to describe a black colleague.

A police misconduct hearing ruled the “off the cuff” remark made by Detective Chief Inspector Stewart Miller, whilst on duty in Grimsby, was “unconscious racism”. 

Miller claimed he did not know the term “choc ice” was offensive and “deeply regretted” its use.

But following a two-day hearing, chaired by Leeds barrister Simon Mallett, he was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed immediately.

The Chair told the hearing: “It’s incredibly damaging to the public perception of the police, and to race relations locally, when there are national concerns about the policing of black communities.”

Miller didn’t hear the end of the Panel’s closing remarks; as soon as the finding of ‘instant dismissal’ was read out by Mr Mallett, he jumped to his feet and stormed out of the room in which the hearing was being held.

The dismissal leaves Humberside without one of its most senior detectives, a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) leading some of the most high profile serious crime investigations in recent years.

Described by his peers as an ‘exceptional and experienced officer’ he had started out as a beat constable in Scunthorpe, also working in Grimsby and Hull, before becoming a detective. His ‘card had been marked’ by the senior leadership in the force earlier this year and he was described as being ‘difficult to handle’ by them.

Earlier this year, there were two ‘black marks’ added to his police record over discreditable conduct, the Panel heard. The force refuse to disclose any further details.

Head of the force’s Professional Standards Department, Detective Superintendent Matthew Baldwin, added: “There is no place for this kind of disrespectful language or attitude in modern policing and we will not tolerate it from any member of staff. This case clearly demonstrates that our officers and staff will not accept this kind of language and will confront and deal with it, if they hear it.”

On any independent view, a very sharp contrast in approach to the main subject of this piece and the force that deploys him/her. It is beyond incredible that his/her spouse works for Humberside Police in a senior capacity (different surname) and has made himself part of the cover-up, placing his own career in jeopardy when the full details can be revealed.

It is said, from a good source. that the subject officer is being investigated by her line manager, a noted ‘box-ticker’ and ‘company man’, whom it is alleged was complicit in massaging crime figures on their patch.

UPDATE: In a letter dated 7th January, 2021, to an experienced retired officer and former colleague of the subject officer, DCI [name redacted] a senior PSD functionary in the subject force said:

“You [the retired officer] do not appear to fit any categories of ‘complainant’. However, if you disagree with my view, please provide me with evidence to show you do have standing and I will re-consider my decision.

“I will state, however, that the force has not received any allegation internally or externally that [name redacted] or any other ‘Senior Police Officer’ made racist comments whilst on a Zoom or any other online call”.

To the informed observer, those three paragraphs are very carefully and cleverly worded. They claim that no allegations have been raised but do not say that the incident did not take place. The difficulty for that detective chief inspector and his deploying Department and force is that too many know that it did.

Page last updated: Monday 11th January, 2021 at 0905 hours

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Picture credit: The Guardian

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