Published: 00:01, 27 March 2018
| Updated: 15:39, 27 March 2018
A police chief says race discrimination is taken seriously, despite a tribunal finding that an officer had been victimised.
PC Angus Bowler was serving on the front line against terrorism and illegal immigration at the UK border at Coquelles in France in 2014 when he brought his complaint against Kent Police.
He had completed training to become a police sergeant, but had been overlooked for promotion for three years despite impressing as an acting sergeant.
So he raised a grievance with his senior officers, including Det Sgt John McClean, Det Sgt Scott Wilson, and Det Insp Nick Staddon.
But that led to victimisation, as Det Sgt McClean called PC Bowler’s honesty and integrity into question, despite the fact he had previously held an exemplary record.
There were other restrictions placed upon PC Bowler which amounted to discrimination in the eyes of an employment tribunal.
The tribunal then found that Det Chief Insp Andy Somerville’s investigation into the discrimination claims was “lackadaisical”, as he had no previous experience of handling a grievance claim.
Instead of referring the matter to the qualified HR department, he instead asked Det Sgt McClean and Det Insp Staddon if they were racist based on the definition provided in the Oxford English Dictionary, rather than the law set out in the Equality Act of 2010.
PC Bowler’s complaint then went to superior officer Superintendent Martin Very, who wrongly concluded that the race element being pursued by PC Bowler had been dropped.
The employment appeal tribunal judge accepted the first tribunal's judgement that DS Very was "disingenuous", in other words "deliberately dishonest".
Superintendent Very’s evidence “hinted” at him holding a stereotypical view that ethnic minority officers are “over-sensitive”, therefore he did not consider the merits of PC Bowler’s claim.
After the tribunal case in August 2016, PC Bowler was awarded damages of £27,000, which included £20,822 in compensation for injury to feelings, £5,165 for aggravated damages, and £1,450 for the cost of bringing the case to tribunal.
Kent Police appealed the ruling to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and Mrs Justice Simkins reviewed the case in March last year.
In her judgment she asked the employment tribunal to look at the certain aspects of the case again, and last week the employment tribunal finally upheld PC Bowler’s claims.
Speaking after the final tribunal judgment, Mr Bowler said: “It has been a long four years and I’m very pleased with the tribunal decision that recognises how I was treated by Kent Police because of my race.
“I’m extremely grateful to the Police Federation central committee, the Metropolitan Police Federation, my family and my legal team.
“I’m also especially grateful to my colleagues who stood by me and stood up for me in the most difficult of times.”
His colleague and retired Det Const David O’Brien said: “Kent Police needs to start taking race discrimination and bullying seriously.
“The vast majority of officers uphold the law with honour, so it is a shame to see them let down like this.”
Kent Police confirmed that its professional standards department carried out an investigation into three officers. The force said that at the end of the investigation, one officer was subject to management action.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Brandon said discrimination of any kind is taken seriously by the force.
He said: “We did not accept that the officer was treated differently due to his race, and that is why we appealed the tribunal’s decision.
“However, now the appeal on parts of the tribunal findings of August 2016 have been rejected, we note their decision.
“We will ensure the vast amount of work we have done in the last few years, ensuring fairness and diversity across the force is reinforced to all officers and staff.”
Mr Brandon said the force works hard to make sure no officers are disadvantaged, and are supported with their different needs or lifestyles.
He said one key objective is to keep and develop black and ethnic minority officers to enable them to take on specialist roles and supervisor positions.
A steering group to achieve this was set up in 2016, and Initiatives to do this have been in place since July 2017.