The top London police officer who accused Sir Ian Blair of a racist campaign of victimisation has been stripped of his responsibilities and put on gardening leave.
The action against Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the country’s most senior ethnic minority officer, was announced today in a message to staff by Sir Ian, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Sir Ian’s decision was immediately condemned by the Black Police Association, which said that Mr Ghaffur was being “victimised”. But Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, supported the move, which he said was necessary to restore confidence in the Met’s operational efficiency.
Mr Ghaffur will retain his rank of Assistant Commissioner – and a salary of around Â£180,000 a year – but has been “temporarily relieved of his duties” including his oversight of security for the London 2012 Olympics.
Sir Ian insisted that the move had nothing to do with Mr Ghaffur’s decision to take him to an employment tribunal, but was instead because of the highly public manner in which he did so and because of the “media campaign” he allegedly conducted. Two weeks ago, Mr Ghaffur, in full uniform, held a press conference to confirm reports that he had taken his case to an employment tribunal after what he said was a longstanding campaign by Sir Ian to hold back his career.
In his statement to staff, Sir Ian wrote: “I have reflected whether operational effectiveness, leadership and confidence in the MPS as an organisation and the security and safety concerns of Londoners are being affected. It is also clear this is having a negative impact on the London 2012 Olympic Security programme and risks undermining confidence in it.
“Certainly, it is the case that the interests of Londoners are not being well served by this current situation. Accordingly, I have decided that, for the time being, AC Tarique Ghaffur be temporarily relieved of his responsibilities although he will remain an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service.
“With immediate effect, I have invited DAC Chris Allison to take over temporarily the command of Central Operations, including the contribution to Olympic security.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the decision has nothing to do with his actions in filing the ET application or the fact that he has made the allegations which are the subject matter of the ET claim. Rather, my decision results from the way in which he has chosen to conduct himself, for example by the manner in which statements were made in his press conference, and in conducting a media campaign, both personally and through the advisors and organisations supporting him.
“It is a matter of regret that I have had to take this action but I want to make it clear that we still want to find a way to resolve his issues through a mediated process.
“For the time being, AC Ghaffur is on authorised leave of absence.”
Mr Ghaffur, 53, arrived in Britain as a refugee from Uganda and joined the police force in 1974. The tipping point in his long-running row with Sir Ian appears to have been his decision to hold the press conference in a West End hotel to detail his grievances against Sir Ian. He has since complained about receiving death threats.
Alfred John, chairman of the Met branch of the BPA, said that the Commmissioner’s reasons for the suspension were “utter nonsense”.
He said: “The Met BPA is extremely disappointed that Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has been victimised in this manner by Sir Ian Blair.
“The message that this sends to black and minority ethnic officers and staff is clear – ’Exercise your right to challenge unfairness and discrimination at your own peril. You will not be listened to and you and your supporters are likely to be victimised’.”
Mr John attacked Sir Ian’s suggestion that his decision was made because of Mr Ghaffur’s conduct. “We think that is complete and utter nonsense,” he said. “It is unprecedented – look at how many tribunals are brought against the Met and no-one is ever told to go on gardening leave.
“This move was something we expected, because that is the way minorities are treated in the Met. And that is a sad statement to have to make.”
Tarique Ghaffur, Britain’s most senior Asian policeman, settles racism case
Tarique Ghaffur, who has agreed to stop employment tribunal proceedings
Britain’s most senior Asian policeman has agreed to a six-figure out-of-court settlement after accusing Sir Ian Blair of being a racist.
Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has agreed to halt employment tribunal proceedings and drop claims that the outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner acted in a racist or discriminatory way towards him.
It is believed that Mr Ghaffur will receive a payoff of about Â£300,000 and his full pension after 34 years in policing. The Metropolitan Police Authority has also agreed to a contribution to his legal costs after weeks of bitter wrangling between the two sides.
Sir Ian’s final day in the office is on Friday. He is retiring at 55 with a Â£300,000 settlement to cover the remainder of his contract as commissioner, which ran to 2010, and will be entitled to a pension of Â£168,000 per year, meaning that the two deals have cost an initial Â£600,000 plus hundreds of thousands more in pension payments.
Mr Ghaffur, 53, has signed a gagging clause and will step down from his role at the Metropolitan Police tomorrow after he was effectively suspended in
September when he announced that he was suing his employer for racial discrimination.
In a press conference in August he claimed that he had been sidelined, discriminated against and humiliated in his role as head of security planning for the 2012 Olympics. He blamed Sir Ian and claimed to have compiled a damning dossier of evidence dating back several years.
The allegations grew into the biggest police race row since the Macpherson report, published after the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
The Times revealed that the latest row led to a boycott of ethnic minority recruitment by the Metropolitan Black Police Association.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, announced an assessment of how ethnic minority officers are treated in police forces throughout England and Wales.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, also began an inquiry into alleged racism within the Metropolitan Police.
Sir Ian vehemently denies being a racist and did not want his term to end with the allegation against him. Lawyers for both sides have been working together for some weeks to make sure that the matter was settled before he left the force. Met officials wanted to “wipe the slate clean” before Monday, when Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson takes the helm as acting chief.
A statement was issued yesterday on behalf of Mr Ghaffur, Sir Ian and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Bryan, the MPA and the Metropolitan Police Service. It said: “The MPA has paid a sum of money in settlement of AC Ghaffur’s claims, including contractual obligations, and a contribution to his legal costs.
“AC Ghaffur has withdrawn the proceedings and his claims that Sir Ian Blair and DAC Bryan acted in a racist or other discriminatory way towards him. The MPA and the commissioner wish to acknowledge the important service of AC Ghaffur in the Metropolitan Police and his significant contribution to operational policing nationally during his 34-year career. They recognise the hurt which he has felt over the past 18 months.”
A friend of Mr Ghaffur said that he was considering setting up a foundation to support vulnerable people, including ethnic minorities, abused women and the poor. He said: “It will give people leadership and direction.”