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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Employers must tackle race issues

Those that fail to treat people equally will suffer

Race discrimination and harassment cost Cleveland policeman Sultan Alam, 45, his career, his first marriage and his freedom.

Alam, a pioneering Asian recruit to the notoriously white macho world of 1980s policing, spent nine months in jail for a theft for which he claimed he had been framed by fellow officers. He fought for a decade to clear his name after release until his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal last year.

You might think that the last place Alam would want to work again would be Cleveland Police, where he was racially harassed – a series of incidents culminating in a Ku Klux Klan poster being left on his desk led to his original racial discrimination claim – and which had dismissed him in disgrace.

Yet earlier this year the father to two teenage girls went back to work for his old employer determined to return to the career he once loved.

“I’m trying to stick to my promise not to be consumed by anger and bitterness,” he said. “But we are all human with human failings and sometimes the memories do come back, though I try to rise above them.

“It was always my intention to go back. It was essential to my own wellbeing to claim back what was mine by right. Also few of the old officers are still in place and at executive level attitudes have changed. I think the organisation has learnt from my experience.”

As has the Police Federation. Last year an employment tribunal ruled the federation had racially discriminated against Alam when it refused to help him clear his name though it supported four officers who were tried – and cleared – of framing him.

The discrimination Alam suffered is rarer these days, but his return to the beat comes amid a flurry of racial-discrimination claims by Asian officers over promotion opportunities.

The most high-profile involve Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaf-fur, who has threatened to sue the force for discrimination, and Met commander Shabir Hussain, who claimed at an employment tribunal this month that Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair groomed a “golden circle” of white officers for promotion ahead of black and Asian officers. Blair “absolutely refuted” the claim. The hearing has now concluded and a decision is awaited.

The National Association of Muslim Officers, which alleges its members are being discriminated against in training and promotion, has complained that 20 police forces have refused to cooperate with its national audit of the number of Muslim and black police officers, their rank and promotion prospects. [Link]

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