Met police’s racist and disablist remarks

The following is a 2002 report from the defunct Police Complaints Commission and concerns remarks made by Met Police Officers in Tottenham.

Whilst I appreciate the gravity of the racism behind the officers’ intents, I also note clearly how the police align both deaf and black in the same racist remark. It does show that people, even the police, have less than a savoury attitude when it comes to race and even disability. The fact that these two terms were used in the same sentence does show us (in the light of recent claims I have made) that there is an abhorrence towards certain types of humans. Being Black is one and being Deaf is another.

Its like saying, if you are not of our ken you have no rights and seen as a ‘criminal.’ Its sadly an inbuilt, automatic reflex, one that the Metropolitan Police (and other police forces too – for example the very recent case of Bijan Ebrahimi where Avon & Somerset officers PC Winters, PC Harris, PC Duffy and PSCO Passmore were all seen as complicit in conducting – very importantly – both a disablist and racist stance towards Ebrahimi. The media and the courts like to forget the disablist part of course, which is perhaps another indication of deeply ingrained institutional attitudes.)


Two police constables were fined after one of them was rude and made a racist remark. The second constable was fined for failing to report the other constable’s inappropriate behaviour.

The incident
In November 1999 the complainant was driving a bus in the Tottenham area of north London. He had just pulled away from a bus stop near White Hart Lane when the way forward was impeded by a marked police “panda” car, which was stationary at the junction. The police car was slightly over the white line dividing the lanes on the road. The car was double crewed with a driver and observer who was seated in the front passenger seat. The bus driver sounded the horn once and then moved past the police vehicle to continue his journey. The panda car changed direction and followed the bus. At the next bus stop the panda driver confronted the bus driver and a conversation took place between the two. The bus driver alleged that the police driver was rude. Following this incident the bus was followed by the police car. At the next stop the driver leaned out and flagged down the passing police vehicle. While still in the bus the bus driver asked the police observer for the police driver’s number. It was alleged that the driver called out his number but the bus driver could not hear. When asked again it was alleged that the driver said loudly: “So you’re deaf as well as black.” The constable then shouted out his number. The police car drove off and three witnesses gave their details to the bus driver.

Complaint made
The driver reported the incident to a manager and the driver completed an occurrence report. The manager telephoned the Metropolitan Police Service where the matter was duly recorded as a complaint.

The investigation
The complaint was investigated by a chief inspector from the North London complaints and discipline unit. The officers were served with notice163, warning them that they had a complaint against them. The bus driver gave a five-page statement on 1 February. On the same day a statement was taken from a passenger on the bus. Three days later the complainant’s line manager was interviewed. The inquiry was unable to take a statement from one of the witnesses as he was leaving the country for a lengthy period. A pedestrian who was crossing the road close to the bus and the car, at the time of the incident, was interviewed in April. A statement was also obtained from a trainer at the Recruit Training School at Hendon who detailed training issues concerning inappropriate behaviour. In May the two constables were interviewed on tape and they denied the allegations. Both officers answered all of the questions put to them. Statements were disclosed and they were asked to explain the evidence against them. The investigating officer completed his report in June.

The evidence
The bus driver who complained said that the PC in the passenger seat acknowledged his toot to him and gave a thumbs up sign. However the police car did not move and so he passed it with about two inches to spare. He said that the police car followed him and ordered him to “pull over.” The police driver ordered him to get off the bus but he stayed on the platform. The bus driver was asked why he was not wearing his uniform or his badge. He gave his name and address. The bus continued on its journey. The bus was followed by the police car to another bus stop. The bus driver decided to ask for the police driver’s number. The police passenger asked the driver for his number. The bus driver could not hear and asked again. To this the police driver said, “So you’re deaf as well as black.” The driver said that the police passenger elbowed the police driver for his comment. He then shouted out his number. A witness on the bus gave an account of the altercation on the bus and described the police driver as cocky and unreasonable. She did not hear the words about being deaf and black. A pedestrian crossing the road witnessed the request for the number and heard the words “are you deaf as well as black”. The inquiry also sought evidence of the training in race relations and challenging inappropriate behaviour by colleagues that the two officers had received. The final report was accompanied by 62 pages of documents, 20 pages of witness statements and 172 pages of transcripts of the interviews with the two officers.

Conclusion of the investigation
The Metropolitan Police Service sent the file to the Crown Prosecution Service for their consideration. They then sent their recommendations to the Authority on 6 December 2000. The MPS recommended that the police driver should be charged under the misconduct procedures with two counts of failing to meet the appropriate standard in respect of politeness and tolerance, under the Code of Conduct.

The MPS also recommended that the police observer (passenger) should face one count of failing to meet the appropriate standard in respect of lawful orders for failing to report an improper remark made by the police driver. PCA member Mrs Caroline Mitchell examined the file and agreed with the recommendations made. Mrs Mitchell wrote to the MPS agreeing the proposals on 19 December. After the officers had been notified of the forthcoming hearing, Mrs Mitchell wrote to the bus driver on 16 January 2001 stating that the complaint would lead to a misconduct hearing. The hearing was arranged by the MPS for 22 June. The officers denied the misconduct charges but were found guilty and fined.

An officer’s racist remark could have caused damage to the reputation of the force and so the Metropolitan Police dealt with it as a serious issue. By failing to report the police driver, his colleague was allowing inappropriate behaviour and racist attitudes to be perpetuated. Officers must have the courage to report such acts and must feel that they will be supported by police managers if they do so.

From: Digest of Cases – 2002 P16-19. Published by Police Complaints Authority

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