With his outspoken campaigning on race relations and reputation for day-to-day crime-fighting, Superintendent Ali Dizaei had been tipped to be Britain's first Asian chief constable.
The Iranian-born officer became an adviser on race to the Home Secretary and moved from a job in his home town of Henly-on-Thames to a £52,000 a year job in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
But Dizaei was secretly suspected of a series of crimes and in 2000 became the subject of what was to become the most expensive inquiry ever into a single officer.
Three years later he was cleared of perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office and making false expense claims - leading to renewed claims that the Metropolitan Police had failed to stamp out racism.
In his book, Not One of Us he outlines how he set about clearing his name.
Not One of Us is published by Serpent's Tail
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NOT ONE OF US
By Ali Dizaei
The Hilton Hotel on London's Edgware Road probably entertains a lot of guests who sign in under false names, like every hotel in the country, because for some reason they don't want to attract attention. A few days after I was suspended, I watched as 'Mr and Mrs Brown' registered for a room.
Unlike most daytime residents, the view, the minibar or the room service weren't important, though a large bed would be handy because everyone needed somewhere to sit. In real life, 'Mr and Mrs Brown' was the ironic name for ten members of the National Black Police Association. We had met in the hotel lobby, but overwhelmed with the feeling that we were being watched, we squeezed into out hotel room to talk about what had happened.
I had been expecting to be the president of the NBPA by that time, but now I was asking Ravi Chand, the man who was due to be my opponent in the election, for help. Any chance I had disappeared with my warrant card when I was suspended. Now I was just another suspended police officer seeking help from his staff association, just as many others had come to me in the past when they were in the same position.
I didn't have a warm relationship with Ravi, as we were quite different in our personalities: where I was often confrontational and outgoing, he was quiet and diplomatic. It didn't help that we were competing for the same job, which had magnified the differences between us while we both thought we had a chance of getting it.
Before he could offer help, I had to answer the usual question, which a hundred people had asked me already.
'Is anything these bastards are saying true?' he asked.
'This is all rubbish,' I told him.
'Then don't say any more,' he said, 'we'll support you.'
And they did: one of Ravi's first acts as president of the NBPA was to publicly back me. If he had been wrong, it could have undermined the credibility of the entire organisation, and made him look like a chump. If he had sat on the fence until the allegations went away, and had decided quietly to sideline me, you couldn't have blamed him. Instead the NBPA worked hard, at considerable cost to several of its members, to help me to discover the truth about the accusations against me, and to clear my name. In the next twelve months, many members might have privately cursed me, as being associated with my case caused them problems they would never have imagined. Not one of the ever criticised me in public.
Hiring a hotel room and sneaking in to avoid surveillance sounds like a story from the Cold War. Under totalitarian governments or in police states ordinary citizens find that they have been investigated by the authorities - not because of what they had done, but because of who they knew. In Britain we take it for granted that we are treated differently, and most of the time most of us are. From the moment of my suspension, however, a lot of people I knew, or who knew people who knew me, or in one case had once been in the same room as me, found that they had been investigated too.
The investigation into me that triggered this was codenamed Helios. By the time I was suspended, it had already been running undercover for eighteen months, and was to run for more than two years, at a total cost to the Metropolitan Police of £4 million. When you add the cost of the legal support needed to prosecute me, the cost to the taxpayer of Helios had been about £7 million, though the officers in charge still dispute this figure. If my estimate is correct, every household in the country donated 30 pence to investigate me, twice the cost of the investigation into the Soham murders, perhaps the highest-profile investigation of the last ten years.
I had a codename: Mozart. There was a secret Helios headquarters, a sub-police station in Kent with the unlikely codename of Miami, where information was collected and filed. As my friends and associates were drawn in, their pictures would be pinned up, next to the information gathered from undercover surveillance, interviews and background checks. There was a chart of all my 'partners', going back several years, with my picture in the centre and arrows to illustrate when we had a 'relationship'. From the names on the chart, it seemed that Supt Norman had assumed that any female I knew was a lover. A reporter from an Iranian newspaper, who I had met twice to be interviewed for an article, was also on the chart. When I was provided with copies of the paperwork that came out of Helios - it was a legal requirement when I had a court case to prepare for - it filled a room; we had to hire a truck to move it.