Racism in MPS ‘worse now’ than after Macpherson Inquiry, says former senior officer

An Asian former senior Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer has claimed that institutional racism still exists in the force, and is “worse now” than after the Macpherson Inquiry more than 20 years ago.

Jun 2, 2021
By Website Editor
Former MPS Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu.

Former Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, who retired from the MPS in 2019, alleged the label of institutional racism “fits” the force, which has “gone backwards” under the leadership of Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Ms Sandhu said that she told Dame Cressida in 2019, when they talked about “positive action” schemes, that the MPS “is not a safe environment for black and Asian officers”.

Ms Sandhu said she also told Dame Cressida: “You should be ashamed of what you’ve done. You failed us. You failed me. And she just turned her back on me, she just walked off.”

Retired judge Sir William Macpherson led an inquiry following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager who was stabbed to death in a racist attack in southeast London in 1993.

The inquiry report, which was published in 1999, described the MPS as “institutionally racist”. Ms Sandhu rejected any claim by Dame Cressida to the contrary.

She told the programme: “I think that she’s so far removed from reality, so far removed from real operational policing, she doesn’t know anymore. She either doesn’t know, or she chooses to ignore it. Institutional racism exists in the Metropolitan Police and it’s alive and kicking and is worse now than straight after the Macpherson Inquiry.”

Ms Sandhu brought an employment tribunal claim against the force after she was cleared of breaching rules about honours nominations. A confidential settlement was agreed last year after she left the MPS and had been cleared of gross misconduct. She had alleged during her employment tribunal that she had been denied promotion and work opportunities due to her race and gender.

Ms Sandhu suggested that racism remains a problem in the force and people are leaving as things become too difficult.

She told Channel 4 News: “When I talk about the label ‘institutional racism’ – yes, it fits. There is a core of police officers who are racist, who have power, but there are a lot of police officers who are good, who are kind and who are there for the right reasons and who want to make that positive change.”

She also alleged that her vetting interview when applying for promotion to become a chief superintendent in 2018 included a line of questioning where she was asked to “discuss your Indian heritage”.

Birmingham-born Ms Sandhu told the programme that she thought this was “a joke”. A senior colleague complained about the incident and an apology was made, she said.

Ms Sandhu was presented with the Public Sector Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards in 2006, in part for her work in the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, London bombings.

She recalled an incident during her career where a member of the public hurled a racial slur at her while she was on patrol with fellow officers, only for her colleague to tell them that “only we’re allowed to call her” by that abusive term.

The MPS described Ms Sandhu as “a successful former Metropolitan Police officer” who had been promoted through the ranks and was “one of our most senior operational leaders” before her retirement. A spokesperson said: “The Met employs more than 5,000 black and minority ethnic officers, around half of all of those employed across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The commissioner’s record on issues of race and discrimination speaks for itself and she is deeply committed to continuing to build a service that reflects those it serves.”

The spokesperson, who said the legal matters between the force and Ms Sandhu are private, added: “The Met has made no admissions of liability in respect of claims of discrimination against Ms Sandhu.”

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