Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Sunday, 5 October 2008 00:01 UK

Chief speaks out on police racism

Mike Fuller

Kent police chief speaks out

Ethnic minority police have to work harder than their white colleagues to succeed, Britain's most senior black police officer has told the BBC.

Kent Chief Constable Mike Fuller told Panorama that they "have to work twice as hard to compete" and "don't feel that there is a level playing field".

Such officers often found it hard to break into specialist teams, he said.

Chief Constable Fuller said he himself had fallen prey to racism, with people having tried to block past promotions.

His comments come amid a major race row in London's Metropolitan Police (Met).

The third in command at the Met, and its most senior Asian officer, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, has said outgoing Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Ian Blair discriminated against him because of his race and religion.

There have been a number of examples where people have tried to block my promotion or prevent me going, putting myself forward for promotion and I haven't accepted that
Chief Constable Mike Fuller

The assistant commissioner was put on gardening leave after going public with his claims.

Another senior officer, Commander Ali Dizaei, was suspended in September by the Metropolitan Police Authority pending an investigation into his conduct.

The Metropolitan Black Police Association (MetBPA) has severed links with senior managers at the Met and accused the force of conducting a "sustained witch-hunt".

Sir Ian announced his resignation on Thursday, following months of criticism of his leadership.

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur
Tarique Ghaffur has made claims of discrimination against the Met

Observers say that his handling of the race row was a key component in his downfall.

Chief Constable Fuller is England's first black chief constable and has been talked of as a possible successor to Sir Ian.

He was speaking to Panorama as part of The Secret Policeman Returns, a programme looking into the issue of racism in UK police forces.

Chief Constable Fuller began his career as a Met Police cadet in 1975 and served both in uniform and as a detective. He became chief constable of Kent Police in 2004.

Specialist teams

He attributes his success to having always ensured that his qualifications and experience were such that the both police forces he has worked for had "no excuse" to not take him.

"I certainly do feel I've had to work harder than most... I've certainly had to ensure I'm qualified both in terms of academic qualifications but also in terms of experience as well," he told Panorama.

And he says that this is the experience of most black and ethnic minority (BME) officers.

If you're not a member of the club or you don't know how to get into the club, then you can find yourself excluded
Chief Constable Mike Fuller

"BME officers have to work, will often have to work, twice as hard to be recognised and really to compete with their peers and that is a big concern."

He says that BME officers find it particularly difficult to break into specialist teams:

"What BME officers find is it is difficult to get put forward for selection and that I think some of the specialisms you'll find will be quite clubby. If you're not a member of the club or you don't know how to get into the club, then you can find yourself excluded."

He says that despite his obvious success he himself has fallen prey to racism during his career:

Police officers

"There have been a number of examples where people have tried to block my promotion or prevent me going, putting myself forward for promotion and I haven't accepted that," Chief Constable Fuller said.

"And sometimes I haven't even known I've been a victim of racism," he added.

"It's been other senior officers who've told me that more junior officers have been attempting to block my promotion."

However, he cited the fact that colleagues flagged up the issue to him as proof that "other officers have actually tried to counter the racism".

Afraid to speak out

As part of its research for The Secret Policeman Returns, Panorama conducted a survey of BME police officers and staff, many of whom said that they felt complaining about racism increased their risk of becoming the subject to an internal investigation.

The programme also sent Freedom of Information requests to all UK police forces looking at the number of internal investigations of BME officers, versus their white counterparts.

Commander Ali Dizaei
Commander Ali Dizaei has also been suspended from duty

The programme found that in Strathclyde officers from an ethnic minority were five times more likely to be investigated than their white counterparts.

In the Met it was 2.5 times more likely.

Chief Constable Fuller said that this was not something he had experienced and that he was not aware of officers who had.

The Kent police chief said that both he and other senior police officers are working hard to combat racism and that staff should speak out if they feel that they are being treated unfairly.

However, he emphasised that he did not think that they should turn to legal action, as has happened in the case of Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur who is now suing the Met.

"That is very much a last resort and that shows desperation, I think, if somebody has to resort to legal action and that is a very sorry and sad state of affairs if people have to resort to legal action to be treated fairly."

Panorama: The Secret Policeman Returns will be on BBC One on Monday 6 October at 2030 BST.

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