The Met's closed culture

From the ground floor up, much of the police culture focuses around informal networks and off-duty s

Most of the allegations of racism made by Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer Tarique Ghaffur are against Sir Ian Blair, so one might have hoped for a more positive response from the Black Police Association (BPA) to the Met Commissioner’s demise.

Instead, the BPA have announced a boycott of Met police recruitment drives aimed at black and minority ethnic communities because the BPA still believes the Met has “a hostile atmosphere”.

Sir Ian Blair, who previously described himself as “a bit of a limpet” exhibited some very un-gastropod qualities last week, jumping ship with the help of a gentle shove from Boris Johnson on the day the London Mayor took over as chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Only a vote by the twenty-three member MPA can result in a recommendation to the Home Secretary that the Commissioner resign and she alone has the power to enforce it.

The consequence of the home secretary’s failure to dissuade Blair from resigning appears to hand the London Mayor the power to fire Britain’s top cop at will.

She may have had her reasons, mind you. There were the hotly contested allegations about contracts being given to a company owned by Blair's friend and skiing partner.

And don't forget the ongoing inquest into the shooting by police of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.

Letting Blair go may have been enticing in the short term but it may prove to be a decision she and her successors will live to regret down the line.

In Monday night’s BBC Panorama programme, ‘The Secret Policeman Returns’, Mike Fuller, the country’s only black Chief Constable talks about how minority ethnic officers find it hard to get put forward for selection.

In justifying their action against the Met, the BPA talk about a recent promotion selection process where none of the 70 successful applicants were black, a situation that has persisted over the past three years.

Retiring as the most senior openly gay police officer in the UK, I had been lucky. I was able to keep my ‘difference’ a secret from my colleagues, at least initially and even when the rumours started, the Met’s promotion procedures during crucial periods of my own career were scrupulously fair.

They involved assessment centres involving a series of different people assessing the same candidate and ‘blind marking’ of written papers.

Such objective assessment has since been abandoned by the Met to be replaced by far more emphasis being placed on what your boss thinks of you, allowing the potential for subjectivity and discrimination.

From the ground floor up, much of the police culture focuses around informal networks, off-duty socialising and informal horse-trading.

Whether it is the team of street cops going to the pub after work - a place where many Muslim and Sikh officers feel uncomfortable - or senior officers thrashing out deals in the wine bars and restaurants around New Scotland Yard, as Fuller puts it: “If you’re not a member of the club…then you can find yourself excluded.”

Tarique Ghaffur and I would sometimes sit in his office bemoaning the fact that ‘they’ did not understand ‘us’, senior officers who were ‘different’. We felt that we were not being listened to, excluded as we were from the informal networks.

As a result, the only way we could get our point across was to go public, whether it was my proposals for a more lenient approach to cannabis or Ghaffur’s belief his department was being starved of cash.

While we were branded as ‘rebels’, it was the direct consequence of the exclusion we felt, the result of a culture that favours the straight white male and the exclusive circles he moves in.

Brian Paddick was Britain's most senior gay policeman rising to deputy assistant commissioner in the Met. He was also the Lib Dem candidate in this year's London mayoral race