Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Sunday, 21 September 2008 13:57 UK

Civil war within the Met police

By Barnie Choudhury
BBC News

New Scotland Yard sign
There have been internal conflicts with the Metropolitan Police

Senior members of the Met Black Police Association are taking counter surveillance measures because of fears of being spied on by fellow officers, the BBC has learned.

This latest twist in the row between the Metropolitan Police and some ethnic minority officers sounds like something from the pages of a spy novel.

The difference is: it happens to be real.

Officers in the same police organisation are meeting at undisclosed times and at secret locations to avoid surveillance. They are buying pay-as-you go phones to prevent conversations being tapped, and they are having their offices swept daily for electronic bugs.

All this is according to three separate sources at the Met Black Police Association.

So are they being paranoid? No, they say.

Instead, they point to the two-year investigation into Commander Ali Dizaei. It was codenamed Operation Helios.

Dr Dizaei has been the victim of what we believe to be the culmination of a sustained witch-hunt
Alfred John
Met BPA chairman

During the inquiry the Met unlawfully tapped more than 3,000 of his phone calls.

They also put him under hundreds of hours of surveillance.

It cost the tax payer between 4m and 7m. In 2003 Dr Dizaei was eventually cleared and brought back to the Met.

Police tactics

Those to whom I have spoken describe what is going on in the Met as "Operation Helios 2". But this time, say sources, they are ready.

"There is a constant battle", said one officer who did not wish to be named "and it's the systematic failure within the organisation.

"It's an attempt to crush any challenge, any dissent, by black and Asian officers."

Some members of the Met BPA are going further.

Whenever there is a critical incident, such as a hostage situation, the police set up a command structure - the so-called Gold, Silver and Bronze command.

Another source said a similar system had been set up by BPA members "so we can react to any on going situation.

"That means we were ready for Ali to be suspended and we reacted accordingly."

In other words, they are using their police training to take on their own organisation.

'Witch-hunt'

So what did the BPA do when Commander Dizaei was suspended? They severed links with senior managers and refused to take part in all meetings.

Using their media contacts they got out their key message - they had no confidence in the leadership at Scotland Yard.


Unnecessary comment is not helpful and we have taken the view that less said in public is better

Metropolitan Police

Earlier this week ,the Met BPA chairman, Alfred John, said he and other members would only attend meetings concerning the reinstatement of Dr Dizaei.

He said: "Dr Dizaei has been the victim of what we believe to be the culmination of a sustained witch-hunt.

"Dr Dizaei had not received a single complaint for over four years and yet, within the last three weeks, three complaints have materialised."

The Met responded by issuing this statement: "We have seen a number of comments over recent weeks from Mr John and we do not recognise his description of what is happening in the Metropolitan Police Service and Metropolitan Police Authority.

"We are committed to trying to resolve matters with the BPA, if possible. Unnecessary comment is not helpful and we have taken the view that less said in public is better."

Tribunal

And this message was repeated on Sunday. This latest news will put the focus back on the Met leadership.

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur - one of the officers who is third in command - is alleging racial and religious discrimination by his boss, Sir Ian Blair.

Mr Ghaffur is now on gardening leave and further revelations could end up being aired publicly at an employment tribunal.

Many Londoners will be reading the almost daily reports with more than raised eyebrows. They will also be wondering just when the apparent civil war inside the Met will end.


SEE ALSO
Senior officer Dizaei suspended
19 Sep 08 |  London
Senior Met officer investigated
12 Sep 08 |  London

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