Crisis at the Metropolitan Police: £300,000+ handshakes all round

Two senior police officers in the Metropolitan Police have departed their jobs in the middle of what everyone agrees is a crisis for policing in London. The Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, resigned before his contract ended claiming that Boris Johnson, the popinjay, old Etonian, Tory London mayor, had driven him out. Resignation or not, Sir Ian pocketed a large pay-off from taxpayers’ money on top of his pension. Britain’s top Asian policeman, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who sidled off a few days before Sir Ian clutching a fat cheque of his own, left having withdrawn a claim against his former boss for racism, promising to say no more.


In fact Mayor Johnson let the Commissioner off the hook. At the first meeting between Johnson and Blair after the Mayor took political control of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) in September 2008, Johnson made it clear he had no confidence in the Commissioner. Sir Ian grasped this straw and resigned, claiming constructive dismissal. He was facing a number of serious scandals and accusations alleging, in no particular order, gross incompetence, corruption and racism.

For the Commissioner, who fondly regards himself as a liberal, Johnson’s declaration of no confidence provided the bolt hole he needed to clear his desk in advance of three events in particular:
1. the imminent verdict at the inquest, which opened in September 2008, into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005;
2. the outcome of Tarique Ghaffur’s claim of racial discrimination, alongside rumours surrounding another Asian senior officer, Commander Ali Dizaei, who was suspended from duty in September, and an accusation of institutional racism by the Metropolitan Black Police Association which advised black people not to join the Met.
3. an MPA auditors’ investigation into accusations that Ian Blair used public money to pay an image consultant who was a friend.

Despite emerging from the De Menezes execution debacle without any criminal charges against the officers involved, and himself surviving accusations that he misled the public, the controversy did not disappear. Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman was the fall guy forced into retirement following the report on the De Menezes killing and the Met police shooting of another innocent man during a police raid in Forest Gate, east London, in June 2006. Blair then chose to fight the charges against the Met that it had breached Health and Safety laws in the De Menezes operation; a case that the Met lost in the midst of further bad publicity.

You might think that a Commissioner who had been involved in the shootings of innocent people, faced charges of corruption and racial discrimination from his senior colleagues, and who had supported all the Labour govern­ment’s proposals for draconian police powers, including 42 days detention without charge, might take a moment to reflect on whether his record accorded with a ‘liberal’ reputation. Not Sir Ian Blair. At his resignation interview he claimed to have done no wrong. As for Ghaffur’s claim, sounding more like a Mafia godfather, Blair claimed to have known that Mr Ghaffur ‘would eventually withdraw his allegation’.

Jane Bennett

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009


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