Former top Met officer sues force for £500k over ‘racist and sexist abuse’
Scotland Yard’s former top female Asian officer is suing the force in a £500,000 claim over alleged racist and sexist abuse.
Nusrit Mehtab quit the Metropolitan Police this year after complaining of a “toxic workplace” in which colleagues and bosses, including Commissioner Cressida Dick, allegedly only paid lip service to diversity.
In documents supplied to an employment tribunal, she alleges that she was told to keep quiet when a swastika was drawn on the wall of a police station in an area only accessible to staff. She also claims her bosses tried to hush up the graffiti and later blamed it on builders.
Ms Mehtab is suing for constructive dismissal, race, sex and religious discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
She says her promotion was slow, held up by opposition she had to overcome, though she rose through the ranks to become a superintendent and the most senior female ethnic minority officer.
She worked in undercover operations and counter-terrorism and was a poster girl for the force, once starring in a TV show entitled Mehtab Of The Met.
The ITV programme, in the 1990s, highlighted her work in trying to improve community relations in London’s East End.
She says she quit the force in January after 32 years because of institutional racism and sexism that was preventing further promotion.
In tribunal papers, she says she is claiming £500,000 compensation for lost earnings and pension and injury to her feelings.
She began her career in Tower Hamlets in east London and recalled that an initiation ceremony for new female recruits was to have their breasts and bottoms stamped with the office stamp.
“In my case, the white male officers did not know how to initiate me,” she said.
“They put their minds to it and set a trap. Hence, in my case they left a vibrator in my locker and congregated to watch me open my locker, thrilled with their ingenuity and sniggering. That was the openly misogynistic culture in the police then.”
Ms Mehtab, who is of Pakistani origin and a practising Muslim, claims she was forced to patrol alone because of her race and was ignored by white male colleagues who refused to talk to or sit next to her.
For religious reasons she says she refused to wear a uniform skirt and was forced to wear trousers made for a male officer.
When she was promoted to inspector, she claims she overheard a colleague saying: “You’ll never believe it. The Doris has passed. How the hell did that happen? How did you let it happen?”
She also claims that senior white female officers “huddled together like Mean Girls” – giving black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues the cold shoulder like a clique in the hit film starring Lindsay Lohan.
She said: “Most resented and disliked me. It was apparent that many white officers found it very difficult to take orders from me as a woman of colour who was also a Muslim.
“Being racist and sexist, they found it too humiliating. Fortunately, an order is an order and no one threw it back in my face and risked being disciplined for insubordination, but they made my job as difficult as they could behind my back.”
In 2018, she was posted as a superintendent to Haringey and Enfield. There, she said a team photo of an Asian superintendent colleague was repeatedly defaced with drawings of penises.
She said that senior ethnic minority officers had to march 10m (33ft) behind Commissioner Cressida Dick and white colleagues at a parade to celebrate women’s role in policing last year. She said: “It is how we are made to feel unvalued. It was humiliating.”
Ms Mehtab said she resigned in September 2019, but was persuaded to stay before finally quitting in January.
She said: “Reaching the rank of superintendent is my biggest achievement. I also believe that were it not for the institutional racism at the force, I would have achieved more senior rank. I believe that the Metropolitan Police Service only pays lip service to the diversity and inclusion agenda.”
She accused Commissioner Cressida Dick of failing to tackle racism, claiming she “protects the racist working environment by supporting racist officers”.
Ms Mehtab’s solicitor Lawrence Davies, of law firm Equal Justice, said: “In the context of the George Floyd tragedy, it is essential we move away from the Met Police’s present institutional denial of racism.
“Racist officers must be dismissed, not promoted. Anti-corruption must understand that the reputation of the force is best served not by covering up racism but tackling it. The vast majority of Met officers are not racist, so it is a tragedy that management and HR defend the few.”
The Metropolitan Police said: “We are aware a police officer has brought a claim against the MPS alleging race, sex and religion/belief discrimination and harassment. It would be inappropriate to comment further ahead of the employment tribunal hearing.
“While we will not discuss details of an ongoing claim, it should be highlighted that the Met has, in recent years, made a number of major changes to the way complaints about discrimination and victimisation in the workplace are investigated, making our processes more fit for purpose.
‘New procedures to make investigating and resolving complaints from officers and staff about discrimination, bullying, or victimisation more effectively have been implemented. Additional resources, expertise, and training have also been introduced along with support mechanisms for those involved in any ongoing process.
‘As an organisation, the Met champions fairness and equality, and there is no place for discrimination or victimisation of any kind in the organisation. We actively encourage our officers and staff to challenge such behaviour if it is displayed and report it through the appropriate channels.
‘We want everyone who works for the Met to have full confidence in how internal grievance complaints are managed, and the organisation’s commitment to ensuring the core values of fairness and equality are upheld.”
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