A senior police officer has been accused of racism and is facing the sack after using the phrase “whiter than white” while delivering a briefing to colleagues.
The Scotland Yard officer has been placed on restricted duties and could face an internal investigation for gross misconduct, according to the Evening Standard, after a complaint was lodged over his use of the phrase, deeming it racist and “intended to offend”.
However, colleagues have leapt to the detective superintendent’s defence, insisting his use of the phrase simply referred to the need for the force’s work to be faultless and moral, rather than any intending to discriminate or offend.
According to the Collins English Dictionary, the phrase has two definitions and can be used to describe something in the literal sense that is extremely clean and white, or something that is considered to be “very pure, honest and moral” and “beyond moral reproach”. The phrase is believed to originate from Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis, which was published in 1593.
An investigation is now being carried out by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which could take up to 12 months to complete. The senior copper, who was part of the Met’s anti-corruption squad and denies any wrongdoing, has been placed on restricted duties until the inquiry into his use of language has been completed.
Disgruntled colleagues told the London newspaper that the internal investigation highlights how out of hand the police misconduct process has become.
One fellow officer said: “There was no bad intent in this comment, it may have been a poor use of language but this is not what the misconduct process is for. This is not corruption, this is not serious wrongdoing. There should be informal ways of dealing with this, particularly at a time when we are so short of experienced officers.”
A spokesperson for the IOPC told the Evening Standard: “I can confirm that as part of Operation Embley into allegations of serious corruption and malpractice within the Directorate of Professional Standards a notice of investigation has been served on an officer informing them we are investigating the alleged use of language deliberately intended to offend and that had racist undertones.
“A notice is issued to inform an officer at the earliest opportunity following an allegation and to safeguard their interests. It in no way indicates that misconduct proceedings will take place.”
After the story was shared online, people took to Twitter to slam the disciplinary action as political correctness gone mad, with one person writing on Twitter: “He’s probably denied doing anything wrong because he didn’t say anything wrong. When did this country disappear up its own arse?”
Another said: “In my youth many years ago in Yorkshire, we had a saying: ‘Call a spade a spade’. In no way was this derogatory and to me it still isn’t. I’ll still use if the opportunity arises. It’s called freedom of speech!”
One wrote: “This country is too caught up in hurty feelings nonsense. We no longer have a back bone. No stiff upper lip. No courage like our colonial forefathers & we’re a shadow of the men who fought in WW1 & WW2.”