London's Metropolitan Police faces racism claims

General view of the sign for the New Scotland Yard building in Victoria on January 27, 2011 in London, England.

Story highlights

  • Eight officers and a member of staff are suspended, the Metropolitan Police says
  • About 20 officers and a member of staff are under investigation, police say
  • "There is no room for racism in the Met," says the force's deputy commissioner
  • The force, which has 32,000 officers, has faced accusations of racism in the past

London's Metropolitan Police was under fire Friday after 10 cases involving alleged racism by police officers were referred to the independent police watchdog for investigation.

Eight officers and a staff member have been suspended while allegations that they used racist language are reviewed, the Metropolitan Police said.

The 10 cases involve about 20 police officers and one staff member, a police spokesman said.

Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey said Thursday that the force, known as the Met, was taking the matter very seriously.

"I want to reiterate -- there is no room for racism in the Met," he said.

Seven cases involving alleged racism were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) Thursday, he said, in addition to three that are under review.

The record of the Metropolitan Police has been tarnished by claims of racism in the past.

A government inquiry ordered in the wake of a bungled investigation into the murder of a black teenager nearly 20 years ago labeled the Metropolitan Police force "institutionally racist" and a raft of recommendations were made to stamp out the issue.

The new allegations follow the release by the Guardian newspaper last week of mobile phone footage that appeared to show a police officer directing racist remarks at a young black man arrested after the riots in London last summer.

The complaints commission said three of the cases under investigation involve officers in Newham, east London.

One case concerns racist comments alleged to have been made within a group of officers between January and March this year, the commission said.

The three officers involved have been suspended, the watchdog said.

Other investigations in Newham involve a 15-year-old boy who was allegedly assaulted by an officer and an allegation that a 21-year-old man was the victim of racist remarks and assault by Met officers, the commission said.

Prosecutors initially decided not to take action against three officers accused of misconduct in the second of those cases but that decision is now under review, the complaints commission said.

IPCC commissioner Mike Franklin said many members of the public would be concerned that Newham officers were accused in more than one case.

"Undoubtedly, these are very serious allegations and I would like to reassure the Newham community and wider public, that we are conducting a full, thorough and independent investigation to establish the facts behind these allegations," he said.

Mackey said the vast majority of the force's 50,000 or so staff, including 32,000 officers, "act with the professionalism and high standards we expect," and that unacceptable behavior would be challenged.

"Whilst any use of racist language is abhorrent, what is reassuring for me is that in the 10 cases that have been referred to the IPCC, six involve other officers who have stood up and raised concerns, showing that we are an organization that will not stand for any racist behavior," he said.

"The Met does not tolerate racism."

The National Black Police Association said last week that the decision by prosecutors not to act on the claims of assault and racist remarks against three officers highlighted the issue of racism and the criminal justice system.

The association is "deeply concerned that this issue undermines efforts to build and maintain trust and confidence of communities grappling with the impact of serious violent crime and escalating hate crimes," it said in a statement.