A black police officer has won a case of racial discrimination against Wiltshire Police after it emerged he was side-lined for promotion due to the colour of his skin.
An employment tribunal found that Pc Ronnie Lungu had been singled out “as a marked man” for no other factor than his race.
Pc Lungu, who joined the force in 2003 after moving to England from Zimbabwe, had been the only black officer out of 20 who had been seeking permanent promotion having been temporarily promoted in 2013.
But the tribunal ruled that Mr Lungu’s internal assessments had been specifically downgraded in order to make him appear unworthy of promotion.
The damning ruling said: “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.”
The tribunal heard evidence that derogatory comments had been made about Mr Lungu based on his skin colour which violated his dignity.
It also was told that a senior member of staff had been invited to make negative comments about Pc Lungu during an appraisal, to which the tribunal ruled: “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.”
When Mr Lungu raised his discrimination with senior officers he was not taken seriously and the complaints brushed off as trivial, the tribunal in Bristol said.
Mr 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.”
Mr Lungu added: “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.”
Mr Lungu’s 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.”
Mike White, Chair of Wiltshire Police Federation, and Pc Lungu’s Police Federation representative said:
“This judgement sends a stark message out to Wiltshire Police that discriminatory behaviour on the basis of race still exists within the organisation. It takes special people, like Ronnie Lungu, to stand up and challenge such behaviours and I applaud his bravery in doing so.”
The Police Federation is the body that represents police officers from the rank of Constable to Chief Inspector. Legal representation for cases such as this are funded from members subscriptions.
Mr White added: “ It was the Police Federation that took Ronnie’s issues seriously and provided him with access to legal advice and representation. We welcome the findings of the tribunal and will work with Wiltshire Police to ensure this cannot happen again.”
Juliette Franklin is a Senior Employment Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
If you or a member or your family has experienced discrimination at work contact Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.
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