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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 20:46 GMT
Officer 'will fight Met racism'
Gurpal Virdi
Gurpal Virdi won record damages for wrongful sacking
An Asian police officer who was racially discriminated against by the Metropolitan Police has vowed to return to work so he can "fight racism from the inside".

Gurpal Virdi spoke after an interim report into his treatment by the Met again raised the issue of "institutional racism" in Britain's largest police force.

As the report was published on Wednesday, the Met's Deputy Commissioner, Ian Blair, offered a public apology to the Sikh sergeant.

I am determined to go back and fight racism

Gurpal Virdi
Mr Virdi, 43, who was based in Ealing, west London, was dismissed from his job after he was alleged to have sent internal racist hate mail.

It was alleged he sent them to himself and other ethnic minority officers and civilian staff, so he could claim discrimination, in 1998.

He was later exonerated and a Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) report attacked the force's disciplinary procedures.

The report said: "At worst, institutional racism can be detected in its processes and procedures in disadvantaging ethnic minority groups.

"It seems that the original investigation appeared to have concluded that Mr Virdi was responsible for the racist hate mail and then set about finding evidence to prove the case."

Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair
Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair: Public apology
After winning a first employment tribunal Mr Virdi brought a second action for loss of career and injury to feelings and the Met agreed to settle out of court.

The amount of compensation, initially thought to be 200,000, is still being negotiated.

Mr Virdi later said the report showed racism was "still rife" in the Met, but he was still keen to get back to work.

"The only way to fight racism is on the inside - from the inside there is a chance and I am determined to go back and fight it," he said.

The saddest thing had been seeing both his parents die shortly after he was falsely accused, he added.

"For both parents to see their son go through hell and not see him vindicated was not fair on them."

Blame culture

His 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son also felt alienated from the police after his home was searched for seven hours in April 1998, he said.

The report author, university lecturer David Muir, said Mr Virdi's treatment was racist in that he was "ruled in before anyone else was ruled out".

The Met also suffered from a "culture of blame, mechanistic compliance to regulations and discouragement of admitting mistakes and of saying 'I'm sorry"', the report said.

'Pain caused'

It said a lack of faith in the system, by which staff report grievances internally, had led to a 68% increase in racial discrimination cases taken to employment tribunals between 1998 and 2000.

Mr Blair offered a public apology to Mr Virdi, saying: "I apologise to Mr and Mrs Virdi for what happened to them, what clearly went wrong, the damage and pain that that caused."

The report also found evidence that treatment of ethnic minority officers had worsened since 1999 when the Macpherson report into the bungled Stephen Lawrence inquiry first accused the Met of "institutional racism".

A re-investigation of the original case is now being carried out by West Midlands Police under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority.

The BBC's Emma Simpson
"The report says they presumed his guilt, then sought evidence to prove it"
The BBC's Adam Brimelow
"This report once again highlights concerns over racism"
Sgt Gurpal Virdi
"This report is another damning verdict"

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