Yesterday, I published a blog about My Fight for Justice after learning on Monday that my employer has commenced dismissal proceedings against me. I realised today, that I’m not really going to get justice, even though I have done everything right to try and achieve this. I have been fighting for 2-years now, whilst suffering with depression – where is the justice in that? I guess, sooner or later I have to realise that the judicial system in the UK, is not designed to help someone like me. I am thankful, to the employment tribunal judge who ruled in December 2010 that my case will be publicly heard in October, but realistically getting there is another matter.
I registered a claim against my employer in May 2010, because since I became ill in June 2009 he has chosen to ignore me, this is despite me being diagnosed with a severe mental health condition in July 2009. Even though my illness was caused by my experiences of racism and homophobia at work, my legal representatives often remind me of how I have to conduct myself and play by the rules, even though my employer does not – there is no justice here. It is not my lawyer’s fault, but it is a sad day when an individual is reminded that he cannot bring his employer into disrepute, yet his employer brings the individual into disrepute on a regular occasion, and gets away with it. I’d never had any illness, before this date.
I too have to ensure my claims with the employment tribunal are not vexatious in anyway. I hadn’t even heard of this term until after becoming unwell, it means… bringing an action against somebody without sufficient grounds or to cause annoyance to that person. The law says that even though I was diagnosed with severe reactive depression as a result of my experiences of racism and homophobia, that ‘I’ must ensure that my claims of racism and homophobia are ‘sufficient’, and on top of that, I must ensure I don’t annoy my employer with them.
I too cannot prejudice my employment tribunal by speaking of the specific derogatory incidents, even though my employer has leaked these to the tabloid newspaper I referred to yesterday in – My Fight for Justice, where is the justice in this? It is one playing field for me, and another for my employer. With this in mind, I have no intention to speak publicly about the actual racist and homophobic incidents and practices I endured at my place of work, as unlike my employer I intend to obey the rules. However, there is nothing stopping me from making known that information about me which is already in the public domain, and the journalist in question has hold of. I am entitled to defend myself, and my reputation. This is my right.
I wrote yesterday that since my employer heard of the reasons for my illness, that he has been viciously and vigorously in pursuit of me, with the intention of stopping me from seeking justice. I say ‘he’, as unlike most employers mine is an individual, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Paul Stephenson. I often ask my partner, hasn’t the Commissioner done enough to me (us) – as I have a mental illness I didn’t have, I take 200grams of anti-depressants daily, I have no salary, I struggle with sleeping and we have to move out of our home, because we can no longer afford it. My relationship is damaged because of the stress we have been under, I am in financial debt as I have been on benefits and getting through each day is a struggle. All of this, because I told the Commissioner I had experienced racism and homophobia, in his force.
In 2008, I transferred from Greater Manchester Police Criminal Investigation Department, to the Metropolitan Police Service as a Special Branch Detective. I joined GMP in 2001, and worked many roles during my time there including Uniform Patrol, Plain Clothes, Staff Officer, Tutor Constable and finally as a Detective within North Manchester CID. Apart from my immediate line managers, I kept my transfer application from GMP to the MPS quiet, as I didn’t want it to be known amongst my colleagues. I just wanted a quiet and dignified exit, and a new policing start. The reason I left GMP at 7-years, was because I had had enough of racism and homophobia in that force.
Not many of my friends in GMP knew, but I had experienced my fair share of discriminatory incidents and practices. I ended up in hospital after one of them, and underwent an Angiogram. Having an operation on my heart in my twenties, is not something I would wish on anyone. My first racist incident was at the beginning of my career at ‘Bruche’, the National Police Training Centre in Cheshire, and my last experience was in May 2008, whilst working on the CID Enquiry Team investigating the Bridgewater Hall Incident, where GMP Officers clashed with Manchester’s Black Community at a children’s talent show. Bruche, is the same police-training centre where the BBC television programme, ‘The Secret Policeman’ was filmed. My experiences where the year before this Panorama documentary aired, but unlike what the reporter saw, mine were directed at me.
I struggled privately with racism and homophobia at GMP until 2007, when I spoke with senior management about them. It was clear to me that they were not going to do anything, and that I needed to keep my mouth shut. This came from the top of the organisation. Ironically, one of the officers who was discriminatory towards me, is a current Assistant Chief Constable with the Force. So, with this my choice was made – or I’d lose my job. Policing was something I had wanted to do since the age of 5, when My Mum bought me my first police bike. But sadly, my dream came crashing down around me in July 2009, when I was diagnosed with depression. Racism and homophobia, had given me a mental illness.
I didn’t step out of line as was expected in GMP, and applied to Scotland Yard as a Specialist Detective. Losing the job I had always wanted to do wasn’t an option. I had worked so hard to get into the Police Service and even harder to become a Detective and subsequently a Special Branch Officer, spending many months in the vetting process. I believed I had done well, and was always proud of being born and raised in Toxteth, Liverpool. My Mum had done a good job, with me. I took the oath I made in 2001 seriously, and thought I would be treated fairly in the Police Service, based on merit. I was very wrong. I’ve not only had to try harder, on one occasion actually four times harder than those white officers less experienced than myself.
The MPS and Special Branch were meant to be a new beginning, leaving behind my negative experiences of GMP. This was my chance to start over again, a new slate in the capital where many black and gay people live. It didn’t work out that way though, as I learned quickly that discrimination is engrained in the Police Service. I am not saying every Police Officer is bad, because they are not – I was not. I have some good Police Officer friends, but rotten apples do make good apples bad, and there is no way of getting around this. I remember commenting to my counsellor that the MPS made GMP look like Kinder Garden – because, it is ruthless when it comes to race.
It was only days after joining Scotland Yard that I was introduced to the Met’s way of doing things – I had to remember though, like GMP to keep my mouth shut. What a lot of people don’t realise is that, even though the UK Police Service has many forces, it is actually a small community. This is why it was even more important, that I kept quiet. A female officer on my shift at the MPS is a good friend with a senior colleague at GMP, and I even picked up the telephone internally in London, to a colleague who had worked with me on my shift in Manchester. This is how small the British Police Service is, you step out of line and everybody knows.
I continued to keep quiet in the MPS as my new direct line manager bullied me, I witnessed the prejudice that was acted upon against black and Asian people and the thoughts of the gay community were revealed by my colleagues. My partner whom I’d not long met, was away at the time in another country – so, I was literally on my own. I spent many nights crying to him on the telephone, and when I wasn’t doing this I was crying myself to sleep. Quite sad really. I often hoped that the next day at work in the MPS wouldn’t be as bad as the previous, but it was. My friends where in Manchester and my family in Liverpool, so this time I had to deal with racism and homophobia alone.
My experiences at Scotland Yard came to a head, when I became seriously unwell at work on an afternoon shift in June 2009. I was suffering with severe stomach pains and headaches, and was that scared that I thought my body had shut down and I was about to die. It was a terrifying experience; I didn’t know what was happening to me. I ended up at hospital, and after blood was taken and my urine was checked and so on, I was finally told what the professionals thought was up with me – I had depression. My whole world came crashing around me. I don’t think I had cried so much up until this point – and as I said yesterday, I watched My Mum die from cancer.
I was referred to my General Practitioner and after several mental health assessments, it was confirmed that I was suffering with severe reactive depression and was told I couldn’t return to work. I was worried that the police were going to find out, and use this against me. I begged my GP and mental health nurse not to diagnose me with depression, but this proved hopeless. It was hard for me, admitting defeat. Even to this point, I was still trying to protect the Police Service, but my body had given up. I had finally been defeated and was finished. My world and my dream of being a Police Officer and rising through the ranks had died in a matter of seconds. It was all over.
It took me a long time to come to terms with my illness and every time a medical professional told me I was depressed, I said the opposite. I fort for a long time not to take anti-depressants, but once again I had to give in to these and admit defeat. My GP was and remains wonderful, advising me to take anti-depressants in combination with counselling – I had broken dramatically. I didn’t and to this day haven’t had the time to concentrate on getting better, because I have been batting with Scotland Yard for 2-years in getting them to listen to what made me ill. Since my diagnosis, not one manager in the MPS has asked me about my experiences or what made me ill.
It is for this reason, that I sought legal advice. I never wanted to get into a legal dispute with the Commissioner, but when I am telling him I am seriously unwell and want to tell him as to the reasons why, and he ignores me – what am I meant to do? There are only so many times you can keep on trying to get someone to listen to you. Eventually, you have to admit that your persistence to speak privately and not publicly is not going to work. You can’t make someone listen to you – so, that’s why I commenced legal proceedings. I have worked in two of Britain’s biggest forces, and ended up with a mental health condition because of racism and homophobia and no one wants to know.
The MPS’s own Chief Medical Officer agrees with my GP about my illness, yet the Commissioner will not even listen to her. What hope is there for me? The MPS are dismissing me, not because I’m a bad officer, but simply because I became unwell through racism and homophobia, and clearly now a liability. Where is the justice here? If I had hurt somebody or committed a crime, then maybe I could understand. My fault was becoming ill, telling my employer of it and thinking he would help me. I am most definitely guilty of that. I guess I’m sad, not because I have been ignored and pursued, but because I should of known better – not to ask for help.
It is not I who should be warned about bringing the Metropolitan Police Service into disrepute, but Sir Paul Stephenson and his senior managers. I hold Sir Paul personally responsible for the treatment I have endured, because he has known about it and done nothing to stop it continuing. I have done nothing wrong, only telling the truth. The Commissioner presides over an organisation that is pursuing me relentlessly because I dared mention racism and homophobia. The Met in its Gold Group meetings it holds regularly about me, has even prepared itself if I go to the media and how it should use the ‘pink press’ to counter allege what I say. Why?
I am not an enemy of the state, what I have done for my country shows the opposite. I was as British as anybody else, if not more by my dedication to duty and volunteering, yet this has never been enough. I have given and never asked for anything in return, only to be treated fairly. The Commissioner has allowed me to be bullied by his senior officers, even up until Monday of this week and for what? What have I done that is so wrong, that he should sack me over? I wrote yesterday that the MPS leaked personal and sensitive information about me, including my sexuality and mental illness to a tabloid – that tabloid was The Sun and its publisher News International.
I cannot think of anything more perverse, with my employer using a newspaper to hold a public court of me. This was purely so that I would stop my claims of discrimination against the Commissioner. The journalist in question Anthony France, knew information about me that only those with specific knowledge of my claims inside the Met could have known. It is of no surprise to me that the same Assistant Commissioner who met me, and stopped my salary after hearing of my claims, has recently been revealed to have dined with staff of News International, the publisher of The Sun. What chance did I seriously think I had against the Met, when it has access to Britain’s biggest tabloid?
It equally is of no surprise to me, that the Commissioner’s HR Director and member of his Management Board spoke directly with The Sun journalist about the leak concerning me. The funny thing is that, these individuals are dismissing me for being ill through racism and homophobia – yet they are not being investigated for bringing the force into disrepute. No one is above the law, and that includes senior officers at the Met and journalists at News International. I was informed that the Editor of The Sun held several editorial meetings about me, as the paper was unsure whether to run with the story, for fear of ruining its relationship with the Police Federation.
I made a point of going to the Police Federation of England and Wales (the equivalent of a union) after the MPS pursued me, rather than the Black Police Association or the Gay Police Association. I had been a full-paying member of the Police Federation since 2001, and believed it had a duty to assist me as a member. When it realised the severity of my claims and the truthfulness of them, it has fully supported me. It even went to the Commissioner’s Senior Management Board very early on, and was also ignored. I felt it important that when minority officer’s came across problems at work, they sought the help of the Federation, which is meant to help ‘all’ officers, regardless of race or sexuality.
Up until my illness, I had never taken a day’s sickness in all my Police Service, that’s 8-years with not one day off – even after assaults on duty and so on. Every shift, I reported ready to deal with whatever crimes came my way. I had never been subject to any disciplinary or performance related issues either. I had however received several commendations, certificates of 100% attendance and letters of thanks from members of the public, for my dedication to duty. I doubt The Sun would print this. I enjoyed my job, helping those who couldn’t always help themselves, this is why I joined. Policing wasn’t just a whim for me, it was in my blood.
As a Specialist Trained Rape Officer, I cannot remember how many male and female rape victims I have helped, I cannot recall how many times I have been assaulted as a Police Officer including being attacked with a knife, spat at, kicked and punched, or the amount of times I have gone to the assistance of a colleague. I was a good officer, and I challenge anyone to say the opposite. In fact, I challenge the Commissioner directly to say the opposite. I remember not so long ago, Sir Paul told Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur to ‘shut up’ and get on with the job of policing and to not voice his grievances in ‘public’ after he made claims of racism. It’s hypocritical – he says he is doing all he can for minority officers, yet I do not even exist to him and my information is leaked ‘publicly’ by his force to The Sun newspaper.
Sir Paul like I was, is ultimately answerable to the people of London. He knows of my treatment with regards to race and sexual orientation, yet does nothing about it. You can’t really blame officers believing they can get away with racism and homophobia, when the head of the force appears to condone it. Why would Professional Standards investigate me behind my back, to see if they could discipline me for something when I was away from work ill? The Met disproportionately investigates ethnic minority officers, and I am an example of this. I raised the issue of discrimination and they set about investigating me, so that they could discredit me. You couldn’t make it up.
I have been an officer with the highest integrity and honesty and they actually tried to find stuff to pin on me. Shame on them. In my opinion, the Met has learned nothing from The Stephen Lawrence Enquiry, The Morris Enquiry and others. My claims with the employment tribunal detail this. Recruiting lots of black and Asian people as PCSOs, cleaners, canteen staff and security personnel are not going to sort out the problem of institutionalism in the force. I would never advise a family member or friend who was black to join the Police Service and more so the Met, for the sake of their health and well being.
In My Fight for Justice, I have wrote to every public body I could think of for help ‘before’ any litigation began, from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, to the Home Secretary, to the Home Affairs Committee, and they all told me to go away. The only person I didn’t write to was Her Majesty The Queen, but she doesn’t get involved with politics. My partner even complained to the ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission, who fobbed him off too. Many no doubt will hate me for challenging the norm, but I say what would you do if the shoe were on the other foot? What would you do if you had been treated so badly, that it made you so unwell and that you considered taking your own life several times? That said I’ve already received my first hate mail, so it is expected. I’ve already been called a nigger and queer.
With regards to The Sun and News International, like I said yesterday print what you want about me, I truly have given up caring. I have realised the past few days, that when a man has nothing, he has nothing to lose. It was only the other week, that Anthony France (who ironically is a black man himself) wrote an article about an Asian female Met Officer. She had been off work ill with depression from racism, and was forced to resign (like me) before she was sacked. He published, sensitive and confidential information about her that only her personal medical/HR files or senior managers would have had access to. Anthony France, not thinking she had suffered enough asked members of the public for photographs of this former officer, so he could publish them too. Well, Mr. France I’m publishing your photograph and seeking information on you…
You are not a big man, hiding behind a desk at News International destroying people’s lives. Do you have a conscience? Do you not think people like the female officer you wrote about, and I have not suffered enough? You are listed on Linkedin as a Crime Reporter for News International and are on Facebook as Anthony France, so I’m asking all those black and Asian people you have caused injustice and hurt, to find out what wholesome, moral and perfect life you live. The Sun is not the only newspaper in the UK, and News International does not control the voice of all throughout Britain, especially not Liverpudlian, Gay and Black people of which I am. I might be small to News International, but like my partner said… the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
I have served my country well in the face of adversity, and ask what have you done for your country? I have been loyal to My Queen and the Office of Constable – which I swore to uphold with honesty and integrity. I have done this, regardless of what you or any of News International’s publications may say about me. I will not however, allow my race and sexuality to be used like it is something that doesn’t matter and is worthless. Like I wrote yesterday, I am both proud to be black and gay, and these come before any uniform I may wear. I do not intend to have a public fight with you, the Met or anybody else, but I will if you take me on. News International and The Sun do not scare me, at all.