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‘They said I sent racist mail’

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Issue 1712

Sikh officer wins case against Met

‘They said I sent racist mail’

SIKH POLICE officer Gurpal Virdi won an important case against the Metropolitan Police last week when an industrial tribunal found that he had suffered racial discrimination at their hands.

“I feel totally vindicated. It is now possible to lay the silly allegations against me to rest,” Virdi told Socialist Worker. Those allegations led to Sergeant Virdi getting sacked in March of this year. They are bizarre beyond belief.

The police accused him of sending race hate mail to a dozen police officers, six civilian workers and to himself. The letters were sent from west London’s Ealing station, where Virdi worked, in December 1997 and January 1998. They were signed with the initials of the Nazi National Front.

Virdi had been in the police for 16 years when he was suspended. “I was flabbergasted when I was accused of sending the racist letters,” says Virdi, “but I was not entirely surprised. Certain people at the station were out to get me because I had spoken out over racism. About three weeks before I was suspended in April 1998, I raised concerns about the handling of a serious stabbing. Five white youths stabbed two university students, one Iraqi the other Indian. They almost died. I arrested two of the suspects. I was shocked to later discover that the incident had not been recorded as a racist crime and that the suspects had been released on bail.”

Virdi also spoke out over the police mishandling of the investigation into the death of west London student Ricky Reel, and submitted evidence to the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

“Pinning the blame for the hate mail on me came at a very useful time for the police,” says Virdi. “It deflected attention from the revelations about institutionalised racism that Macpherson uncovered. The Met’s media team went into overdrive. When I was sacked there was a lot of negative press coverage about me and attempts to claim that the level of racism in the police force was being massively exaggerated. My case shows nothing has changed since Macpherson.”

The tribunal heard that Virdi was treated differently from white officers suspected of sending the letters. The police raided his home and tried to entrap him in an interview in February 1998.

Virdi is scathing about claims that the police are tackling racism in their own ranks. “There are many officers who are not racist. But the middle and senior management in the force are appalling. They are not taking the issue of racism at all seriously.”

Ian Blair, a senior commander in the Met, said last week that it accepted the tribunal’s findings and that it “was time to draw a line under this long story”. “That shows the problem,” Virdi told Socialist Worker. “They shouldn’t be talking about ‘drawing a line’ under this. I think the public is sick of seeing out of court settlements where taxpayers’ money is used to pay compensation to victims of police racism while the police don’t accept responsibility.”

Gurpal Virdi is now working part time for a charity. He has lost out on three full time jobs after the Met gave him bad references. He has another employment tribunal pending later this year for unfair dismissal.

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