LONDON – A judge has ruled that a Wiltshire Police officer was discriminated because of the colour of his skin.
Ronnie Lungu, born in Zimbabwe, was downgraded against 19 white rival candidates when he applied to become a sergeant with Wiltshire Police.
A judge ruled in his favour at an employment tribunal in Bristol. The force denied the allegations.
A tribunal heard the father-of-three joined the force in 2003 after moving to England and ten years later was temporarily promoted to a sergeant.
He passed his sergeant’s exam and applied for the role permanently and was the only black officer out of 20 candidates to apply.
But he was turned down and sued the force for discrimination on the grounds of his ethnicity.
The force – which has only 16 ethnic minority officers out of a total of just over 1,000 – denied the claims.
But an employment tribunal has ruled that he was singled out “as a marked man” for no other factor than his race.
They found that his internal assessments were specifically downgraded in order to make him appear unworthy of promotion.
The tribunal in Bristol also heard evidence that derogatory comments were made about Mr Lungu based on his skin colour which violated his dignity.
It also was told that a senior member of staff was invited to make negative comments about Pc Lungu during an appraisal.
The judgment read: “The reduction in the scoring has the very significant effect in terms of making it appear reasonable that the one black applicant for promotion was scoring lower than the 19 white applicants and should therefore not be promoted.”
It went on: “This behaviour is so extreme that the Tribunal cannot think of any apparent motive other than one that is directly related to [the] Claimant’s race.”
The tribunal heard that when Lungu raised his discrimination with senior officers he was not taken seriously and his complaints were brushed off as trivial.
Lungu said: “When I realised I was being singled out and treated badly because of the colour of my skin I felt so angry and upset.
“I had worked all my career to serve the community and be the best police officer I could but I was being penalised because I was black.
“It was totally unacceptable. But what made matters worse was that when I did raise the issue internally it wasn’t taken seriously.
“I joined the force to uphold the law and I still would like to remain with the force.
“I need reassurance from Wiltshire Police that they will take issues of discrimination seriously in future and I want to see new procedures put in place to tackle discrimination and better education among senior members of staff in how to deal with complaints.”
Despite his treatment, Lungu is still serving as a Pc with the force.
His lawyer, Juliette Franklin, of Slater and Gordon, said: “It’s extremely disappointing that people are facing this sort of prejudice and discrimination.
“Wiltshire Police needs to take this tribunal ruling very seriously and take swift steps to address any failings which have been identified.
“The force needs to ensure that officers feel confident that if they experience racism or discrimination that any complaint will be taken seriously.”
Wiltshire Chief Constable Patrick Geenty said the force was “concerned” by the findings and would “learn lessons” from the case.
He said: “Wiltshire Police take this matter very seriously and I am concerned by the Tribunal’s findings. Clearly, the issues this raises do need to be carefully considered.
“We continue to work hard to embed our values and behaviours and the Code of Ethics within the organisation.
“Wiltshire Police will learn lessons from this process and continue to move forward.”
He added: “As an organisation we have a very small number of Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) staff (16 officers, 15 police staff and 3 Police Special Constables) and this judgment raises some serious concerns about how an officer felt he was treated.
“I have no doubt that this judgment will affect members of the Black and Ethnic Minority community who might be considering joining Wiltshire Police.
“I want to reassure the public that Wiltshire Police are committed to increasing diversity in the Force so that we can reflect the communities we serve.
“This case was complex and there were a number of points covered. With our legal advisors, we are undertaking an assessment of the Tribunal’s findings in order to decide whether to appeal any aspects of the judgment.
“Following this assessment, decisions will be made on what action we may need to take and how we can ensure that lessons are learnt from this case.
“We will continue to engage with the officer and his representatives to ensure that he can continue to be a valued member of Wiltshire Police.
“All necessary training and support will continue to be provided to him.” – Bath Chronicle