Black people, racism and human rights Inquiry
Submitted by Mr Gurpal Virdi LLB
- My name is Gurpal Virdi, I grew up in Southall, west London. I was the first Asian from Hounslow to join the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). After retiring from the Police Service, I served as an elected councillor for London Borough of Hounslow, from 2014 to 2018. I am a published author.
- In 2012, I retired as a Detective Sergeant from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) one of a few (12th) ethnic minority officers to have having served thirty years of unblemished service. I did not want to retire but as an Asian officer, I suffered a great deal of racism in the MPS that resulted in a lot of media attention, leaked by the MPS. During my service as a police officer and as a councillor I have witnessed racial inequalities in state institutions and processes against Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in particular the Black community.
- When going through schooling in the 60’s and 70’s, it was evident that Black pupils were being expelled more than the Asian and Whites sometimes on trivial matters. Asian pupils had to endure the bussing programme. Even in 2020, more Black pupils are still being excluded from education. A sad reality.
- Upon joining the police, my first posting was in South London, Battersea. I was welcomed by the Black community and their number was considerably stronger here than that of Southall. I was shocked at the disproportionate number of Black people being stopped and searched; arrests on minor offences; the charging policy and decisions to get them convicted and worst of all, the assaults in custody. I intervened on many occasions only to be warned off by supervising officers. Racism was common practice within the police not only towards the BAME community but also towards BAME police officers. Many officers acquiesced, but those who objected, like myself, faced the consequences. In the 80’s it was common practice to beat up prisoners, things improved with the introduction of Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 but it would take years before there was some sort of accountability. The introduction of Lay Visitors at police stations helped but it was again subject of abuse by stating ‘the prisoner is refusing to see you’ even though they did not say that. The best thing that happened was with the introduction of CCTV cameras in the custody area.
- Prior to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), police officers would deal with their own cases and presented them at court. The CPS in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s had a bad reputation within the police because of the poor quality of lawyers representing cases in court on behalf of the police. Racism played a factor in that the CPS would take on cases depending on how case files were written up by police officers. The CPS lacked independence and it is possible to write up an innocent person and present a false case against individuals. It still goes on today. BAME people were and still are subjected to this racism. Sir William Macpherson has described this as Institutional Racism. Many other reports have confirmed that BAME people do not get a fair chance in the justice system. BAME people also suffer as victims of crime as their crimes are not recorded, if they are, they are not investigated properly or are written off. Stop and Search is a contentious issue that has continually failed and broken trust of the police. The police are seen as oppressors not protectors. Senior police officers and politicians have failed to tackle this.
- During my service, I have worked with the Black Police Association, both national and Met and other staff associations to tackle some of the concerns of racism and inequality. There has been internal infighting thereby preventing progress. Senior management would play the ‘divide and rule’ system, that is, give funding/facilities to one staff association but not the other.
- When taking cases to court, the judges and juries tended to look at the Black accused as more villainous than the White accused. Even on the sentencing, Black people are worse of, in that, they get more custodial sentences in comparison to a White person. The CPS takes more cases to court when the accused is Black. With White accused a case file may be returned for a ‘warning’ or ‘caution’ or ‘No Further Action’ to complete the case. As stated previously, it is how the files are written and presented to the CPS by police officers.
- Even when an innocent person is convicted and sent to prison, as a Black person you have a very small percent of being cleared. It is only after campaigns and media coverage that a Black person may get some justice. The reporting in the media is very biased towards guilt of a BAME accused than of a White person. Religion is also used against BAME accused. You never see the headline ‘White Christian paedophile arrested’ but you will see ‘Muslim who has terrorist links’ ‘Sikh sergeant arrested’ ’23 arrested in Rasta temple’ or they use ‘of Jamaican origin.’ BAME people do not get a fair coverage in the media. The police are always eager to release press reports when it is a BAME accused with details of the crime, date of birth, which road they reside etc. sometimes even before they have been charged. This is done to ensure that by the time the case goes to court, the details are still in the mind of the public and jury members. The more publicity is given the lesser the evidence.
- By criminalising the BAME community, it is especially difficult for Black people to get jobs even when they have done well in education. Even if you have been unlawfully arrested by police and want to start a new life in a different country, you have to declare the number of times you have been arrested (not convicted) and in some countries they will not let you in as a visitor.
- Education system has let down the Black people, as pupils they are more likely to be expelled thus missing out on education especially in teen years. They will be forced into as ‘Special Needs’ or ‘Supported Learning’ or ‘Home Learning’ again a misuse of the system. This system allows the education establishment to get more funding whilst not really providing the education. It is also a system whereby school results are improved, that is, excluding Black pupils from the official exam figures.
- From 2014 to 2018, I served as an elected councillor for London Borough of Hounslow. The selection process to allow more Black candidates to stand is blatantly corrupt and not fit for purpose. Since 1996, Operation Black Vote has been a disaster as it has failed to register more Black people to vote, not supported BAME candidates and failed to engage BAME communities with public institutions in order to address the persistent race inequalities. I have raised concerns with the Labour Party but these have fallen on deaf years. In Hounslow there are some very good potential Black candidates but the Labour Party’s unfair selection process only allows its ‘preferred’ candidates to get through. The selection of candidates for Member of Parliament is even worse when local candidates are blocked in order to parachute in someone who is not even from the local area. These imposed candidates do not reflect democracy.
- As an elected councillor and as a community member I have raised the fact that Hounslow council does not celebrate Black History Month. All I get in response is empty promises or after I have highted the fact, Hounslow council will at last minute ‘piggyback’ on someone else BHM celebrations or arrange a film to be shown. Another example of racism and inequality in local government is the recruitment of senior officers to council posts – most do not even live in the borough and do not represent the borough’s diversity.
- Things can improve if decision makers that are employed to carry out tasks are genuinely not racists and do their job properly. People have the right to be treated fairly. The laws are there to protect people from racism or inequality but how many can afford the legal route/costs and the disruption it causes to family life?
- The public institutions need to held to account as recommendations or findings from past inquiries are swept under the carpet or locked up in cupboards gathering dust.
- The media needs to report fairly and not be biased. If there are good BAME role models then they need to be supported and allow them to flourish. Recognition of genuine good role models is not acknowledged in the Queen’s Honours List or at local level. Over the years, the local media is only reporting what the local council/police tell them to report as they provide revenue via advertising. Local voice is being muted.
- Funding is an important factor, presently, funding only goes to those who shout the loudest or to friends of those in power to grant funding. There are some great volunteer groups who do a great deal in the community but have to give up once funding dries up. It costs money to hire halls, provide materials, training and refreshments. During the funding process additional scoring points need to given to those groups who tackle inequalities.
- Submitted for your consideration.
8th September 2020