16 June 2009. Discrimination claims have cost the Metropolitan Police dear.
Out-of-court settlements to the staff alleging discrimination during the past five years has seen the Met dole out £2million, reports the Evening Standard.
The development is being viewed by some as unchanging attitude of the officers, who allegedly continue to harass colleagues of different heritage or of foreign background.
Others see it as an indication of “compensation culture” striking its roots in the force. A section of the police force believes a number of officers are simply making an attempt at easy money; and the allegations are not just frivolous, but even baseless.
The bleak picture of discrimination being painted has also led to resentment of sorts; widening the "black and white" gulf. Analysts and observers are now asking why racism is being seen as a one-way street, with just the white people committing the offences
It is also being felt that the settlement amount is not an indicator of discrimination, as it follows out of court settlement and not judicial verdicts.
The spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Federation Peter Smyth says the Met believes in giving someone £5,000, than risk £30,000 in legal fees.
Claiming the law is wrong, he says going to a tribunal means paying your own costs. Winning or losing is not a consideration. The loser ought to be made to pay all the costs as it will weed out non genuine cases."
The figures show payouts made in pursuance to industrial tribunals are comparatively less, just £78,775 since 2003-04.
This is not the first time the Met had to shell out money for alleged indulgence in prejudice.
Most recently, two black police community support officers, alleging they had to bear "monkey chants" from a colleague, settled a race discrimination claim against Scotland Yard for a “regret letter” and “token amount”.
Wayne Bell, 38, and Clint Charles, 40, had alleged a white constable, John Harrison, subjected them to racist abuse. This included ape impressions. They had initially alleged the force failed to take their complaints seriously, but withdrew the claims in a settlement with the Met, which involved the force giving them a "letter of regret" and agreeing to pay a "token sum".
The Home Office figures show in 2003-04, the Met made out-of-court settlements running into over £350,000 to the officers and other staff. In 2007-08, the amount rose to approximately under £520,000.
Statistics reveal while the cases of racial discrimination have registered a steady decline, claims of sexual discrimination have doubled during the period; and settlements involving other forms of discrimination – including sexual orientation, age and disability – have gone up to £324,000.
The figures, incidentally, do not include legal and administrative costs, which are likely to push the total even higher.
The latest figures also do not include the reported £300,000 paid to former Met assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur in an out-of-court settlement. Also not included is the latest payout to Detective Sergeant Gurpal Virdi, who had won £240,000 in damages from the Met for race discrimination. He was awarded another £4,500 from the force last year.
The Home Office has all along been insisting employers, who refuse to consider anyone who looks or sounds foreign, are likely to be unlawfully discriminating on racial grounds. They have a legal duty under current race relations legislation to avoid unlawfully discriminating on racial grounds.