The Three White Policemen, the 'Racist' Remark and the Question: Has Political Correctness Gone Mad at the Met?

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THREE white police officers were wrongly investigated over 'racist' behaviour, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

The detectives faced months of questioning after being pulled up for remarks made in front of an Asian woman officer during a race relations training day.

One was suspended for three months and another diagnosed with depression.

All were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in an inquiry by Scotland Yard's most senior Asian officer, who 'found it incredible this matter was taken up'.

Yesterday the men began a race and sex discrimination case against the Metropolitan Police, claiming the investigation had been 'motivated by political correctness' in the wake of the 1999 Macpherson Report, which accused the force of being 'institutionally racist'.

The officers are Acting Detective Chief Inspector Paul Whatmore, 39, Detective Constable Tom Hassell, 60, and Detective Sergeant Colin Lockwood, 55.

The tribunal heard that Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who was deputy commissioner at the time, took a particular interest in pursuing the case against the men.

DI Whatmore, a serving officer for nearly 20 years, said: 'I do not believe the deputy commissioner would have been so keen to punish an officer with due regard to the proper conduct of an investigation if they had not been white and male.' He also claimed their accuser had told 'outright lies' yet was treated with kid gloves.

The race inquiry was launched after Detective Sergeant Shabnam Chaudhri, 40, complained about DC Hassell mispronouncing the Muslim word Shi'ites as Shitties and comparing Muslim headgear to tea cosies.

He also said he would not want to be 'that lot' when referring to Muslims fasting and abstaining from sex in daylight hours during the holy month of Ramadan.

DS Chaudhri accused the other two, more senior, officers because they failed to intervene. At the time DI Whatmore was her commanding officer at Loughton police station in Essex.

The officers faced a misconduct panel in June 2001. Three complaints - that DC Hassell had made a derogatory remark about Muslim headwear and that the other two officers had failed to intervene - were upheld.

But the panel said no further action should be taken against the detectives.

Ruth Downing, representing the men at yesterday's tribunal in Stratford, East London, said Sir Ian 'found it incredible that they could find these matters and then take no further action'.

She said he sought legal advice about overturning the panel's decision.

And she added: 'It appears officers saw it as imperative in the post-Macpherson era that they should be seen to be doing something to address complaints that there was racism in the police. …