PC Carol Howard, who is claiming discrimination, felt she was ‘used as a token’ by Met to improve its image
A black female firearms officer has said the Metropolitan police have failed to learn the lessons of the Macpherson report, which branded the force “institutionally racist” in its investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
PC Carol Howard, 34, one of only two black women out of 700 officers in the diplomatic protection group (DPG), told an employment tribunal that in the wake of the police shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011 she felt she was used to improve the image of the Met police.
Howard is claiming direct discrimination on the grounds of race and/or sex and/or marital status and is also claiming harassment and victimisation.
The first investigation of her complaint was “a complete whitewash or attempt to sweep my complaints under the carpet,” she said, and so she appealed against it. “There has been a blatant cover-up by the Met. The police have not learned any lessons from the Macpherson report and they still continue to discriminate.”
Howard told the hearing in central London that in 2012 she was asked to take part in a photoshoot for the London Evening Standard, and agreed because she was led to believe it was to highlight the Olympics.
But she later believed she had been asked because of her colour in the wake of the shooting of Duggan. “I felt that I had been singled out and chosen, as a black officer, to represent diversity and to change the public image of white police shooting black youth,” she said.
She said this was later confirmed to her by another officer. “I was uncomfortable and upset when I was advised by him that I had been specifically asked as a result of me being a BME (black and minority ethnicity) female,” Howard said.
She said she felt betrayed and “used as a token”. “I thought I was being selected for this role for being a good role model and being good at my job, when in fact I had been selected based on my colour/race.”
Howard said the photograph had since been used against her by various media outlets, which was “humiliating” and had attracted “deeply unpleasant (racist) and salacious” online comments.
She believed that details about her case had been leaked to the media and that police were wrong to give her full name. “In employment tribunals, they don’t normally name the officer,” she said.
She said she had also been used to promote diversity in the Met by driving Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen, from Brixton to Kensington in 2005. “I felt I had been called upon to demonstrate to Ms Lawrence that the organisation had come a long way as here I stood as a successful black female officer.”
Howard told the tribunal that her career as an authorised firearms officer (AFO) was disrupted when acting Insp Dave Kelly was posted to DPG in December 2011. “From then on I was targeted, subjected to detrimental treatment and harassed by Acting Inspector Kelly’s actions in comparison to male and/or non-black colleagues,” she said.
She claimed Kelly’s actions had robbed her of her career aspirations and had gone unchallenged by the DGP and the Met. She said she had been told by another officer that Kelly was looking into her personal Facebook account.
She told the hearing it was not professional for officers who were supposed to be protecting the prime minister on the streets of London to be accessing people’s Facebook accounts. “It’s intrusive supervision, and he didn’t do it to anyone else in my team. It’s clear differential treatment.”
She told the hearing: “I believe the reasons for my malicious, unethical treatment at the hands of Sgt/Acting Inspector Kelly is a direct result of discrimination based on my race, sex and my looks, Acting Inspector Kelly’s attraction toward me and my disinterest.”
The Met has said it will “robustly” defend itself against the claim. The hearing continues.