A police force has been ordered to pay £27,000 after an employment tribunal ruled a long-serving and respected British Asian constable had suffered repeated racial discrimination that went unchallenged despite senior officers being aware of his complaints.
PC Angus Bowler, an officer with 25 years’ experience, claimed he suffered ill-health and feelings of betrayal after complaints about unfair treatment against him were consistently batted away by Kent Police.
The tribunal ruled that Bowler was “worn down by the conduct of his senior officers” and found Detective Chief Inspector Andy Sommerville had demonstrated a “lackadaisical approach” towards Bowler’s claims, including believing he was being “over-sensitive about being treated badly because of his race”.
After an earlier judgment produced findings of racial discrimination and victimisation, “there was a complete lack of action” from Kent Police, said the tribunal. Bowler was “fobbed off” by the force’s professional standards department when requesting an investigation into the findings.
Law firm Slater and Gordon, which represented Bowler, claimed the discrimination began in March 2014, when he raised a grievance after being overlooked for promotion. The initial employment tribunal ruling, made in April this year, cleared Detective Inspector Nicholas Staddon of racially discriminating against Bowler, partly because the evidence indicated that he had also been “rude and abrupt” to a white officer.
However, the tribunal found Bowler was subjected to victimisation and racial discrimination after he made his complaint.
Sommerville had found race relations legislation “convoluted”, the tribunal heard, so his investigation of the grievance consisted of him quoting the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘racism’ to a colleague, who assured him he wasn’t racist.
The tribunal also found that the force “suffered a collective memory loss” while giving evidence about a key aspect of the case. It had been slow to disclose emails written by colleagues, which led to Bowler’s victimisation. As a result, Bowler “felt, with good reason, that [Kent Police] was not being forthcoming and was trying to hide the more damaging emails that would show what really happened”, the tribunal said.
Since the discrimination and victimisation, Bowler said he had suffered from dizzy spells, chest pains and anxiety about when to start his shift. The tribunal ordered Kent Police to pay Bowler’s £1,450 tribunal fees, plus £20,822 in compensation.
The tribunal rejected an apology letter sent by the force before the hearing, calling it “half hearted” and a “late attempt to reduce any compensation payable”. It recommended an immediate review of staff training and grievance procedures, and said Kent Police should work with the National Black Police Association on remedial measures.
Kent Police responded to the verdict by saying it would lodge an appeal. In a statement, it said: “While we accept that there are points within the grievance and appeals procedures that could be improved, we do not accept that the officer was treated differently due to his race.”
“The chief constable did send a letter to Mr Bowler, apologising for the way in which the matters were dealt with. Recommendations submitted by Mr Bowler for improvement to procedures will be considered by the force.”
Bowler is still serving with the force, as part of its operations in France.
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