The Metropolitan police is being sued by a former constable who claims he was racially abused in a three-year campaign by supervising officers.
Urijah Phillips, whose police unit was commended by the Queen over its response to the 7/7 bombings, claims in high court papers seen by the Guardian that he was labelled “nigger” by two Scotland Yard officers.
The former officer alleges that he was described as a “cocky black bastard” by one detective constable and, in a second incident, that he was told by a police federation representative: “At least you're not a nigger and can talk like the white man. If you were a nigger you'd be out so quick. The Met don't like niggers.”
Lawyers for Phillips are seeking £300,000 in damages from Scotland Yard over allegations that he “suffered from blatant and direct discrimination during his years as a police officer from as early as 2005” until he was dismissed from the force in 2008.
Phillips claims he was racially abused by a detective constable in September 2007 after he was arrested and later cleared in connection with a series of threatening messages. Phillips claims he was strip-searched and left naked in a police cell following his arrest, with his clothes only returned after a police federation representative intervened.
The former officer says he was taken to the police interview room where he was called “nigger” and “cocky black bastard” by the detective constable, who allegedly promised to “do all in his power” to ensure he lost his job.
“The claimant had never met, worked with or knowingly corresponded with [the detective] in any way before so could only extrapolate from his comments that it was because the claimant is a black male that [the detective] was so aggressive towards him,” says Phillips's lawyers in the high court papers.
The force is accused of treating Phillips “very different on the basis of his skin colour as to how his white colleagues”.
In a separate incident almost a year later, Phillips was subject to a disciplinary hearing over driving offences that eventually led to him being dismissed from the force in 2008. In a meeting with a police federation representative before the hearing, Phillips claims he was told: “Don't worry about it. At least you're not a nigger and can talk like the white man. If you were a nigger you'd be out so quick. The Met don't like niggers.”
Phillips is described in the legal papers as being “very shocked and distressed by this language and couldn't believe that a federation representative would be expressing such views”. The former constable believes that he was singled out and “continuously belittled” as the only black officer at Charing Cross police station in central London.
In another incident, Phillips claims he was banned “purely due to the colour of his skin” from attending an awards ceremony hosted by the Queen, where his unit received commendations for their response to the London terror bombings on 7/7.
He also claims to have been unfairly overlooked for a promotion to the Central Investigation Department (CID), despite passing the examination with a 100% score.
A Metropolitan police spokesman confirmed that the force had received notification of the legal action and said it expected to defend the claim. The spokesman said it could find no record of any complaints alleging racism or bullying by Philips when he was employed by the force. He said: “The Metropolitan police service are committed to taking action when cases of alleged racism are brought to our attention.”
Phillips was required to resign from the force in 2008 after being found guilty of driving “otherwise than in accordance than with a licence” and exceeding the speed limit. He was also found to have breached the Met's code of conduct in relation to honesty and integrity, and performance of duties.
A Met police spokesman added: “We take convictions of officers for criminal offences extremely seriously, and in this case the decision of the misconduct panel, having considered the evidence put before them, was that the officer should be required to resign in line with police regulations at that time.”
The allegations come three months after a damning report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which found that the Met was failing to deal effectively with race complaints. The police watchdog criticised Scotland Yard's “unwillingness or inability” to tackle the issue after examining a sample of 511 allegations of racist behaviour against its offers made between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012.
Bernard Hogan-Howe has taken a tough public stance on racism since being appointed Met police commissioner in July 2011, saying last year: “Racists will find me an implacable enemy. We will get rid of them, we will drive them out of the Met.”