The Magic Trousers
- Behind the Blue Line: My Fight against Racism and Discrimination in the Police by Gurpal Virdi
Biteback, 299 pp, £20.00, March 2018, ISBN 978 1 78590 321 2
In April 2014 I was asked to represent a man called Gurpal Virdi. The last time I had heard that name was ten years earlier at a memorial service for my father, Paul Foot, at the Hackney Empire. There, Virdi had immediately stood out, as a serving police officer addressing a largely Marxist audience. In 1998 he had been suspended from the Metropolitan Police for ‘sending racist hate mail’ to the police. He was also alleged to have sent such letters to himself. My father wrote about his case in Private Eye and the Guardian. Eventually the allegations were dismissed; Virdi won record damages from the Met for racial discrimination. The allegations against him had emerged shortly after Virdi, a detective sergeant, complained to his superiors at the Met that an arrest he had made, for a racist assault, hadn’t been treated as a hate crime. Soon afterwards he decided to make a submission to Sir William Macpherson’s inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It was this inquiry that led to the charge that there was ‘institutional racism’ in the Met. After Virdi’s reinstatement in 2000, he was unsurprisingly overlooked for promotion until finally he retired from the police in 2012.
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