Met police 'used secret racist Facebook group'

Britain’s largest police force has launched an investigation into allegations that its officers used a “secret” Facebook group to air racist views about ethnic minorities.

The Metropolitan Police is examining allegations that serving officers used a closed group on the social network to post racist comments about Gypsies and Travellers. Both groups are officially recognised as ethnic minorities, and discriminating against them is illegal.

Police officers could be prosecuted if they are found to have broken the law, and will also face professional misconduct inquiries, Scotland Yard said. But the force was yesterday urged to launch a wider review amid claims that racism against both groups has become “endemic” and “part of police culture”.

The Met was first alerted to the Facebook group in April after concerns were raised by one of its members. Named “I’ve Met the Met”, it has around 3,000 participants, and serves as an unofficial online forum for serving and retired officers, but is managed on an invite-only basis and cannot be viewed by the public.

Some of the comments were made during a discussion in March about the BBC Trust’s decision to clear Jeremy Clarkson and other Top Gear presenters of wrongdoing for their use of the word “pikey”, a derogatory term for Travellers. Others dated back further.

“I never knew a pikey could be offended,” read one comment. “I thought they were devoid of all normal feelings and thoughts … just my opinion based on many years of dealing with these despicable people.” Another said: “There is not a small minority of criminals from the GT [Gypsy and Traveller] community – to all intents and purposes they all depend on crime.”

The comments suggest that a “canteen culture of racism towards Gypsies and Travellers” exists within the Met, according to a formal complaint sent to Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe by the Traveller Movement charity at the end of last month.

The allegations will come as a blow for the Met, which has been working to repair its reputation since Sir William Macpherson’s 1999 report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence found that it was institutionally racist.

In a statement, the force confirmed that officials at its internal watchdog, the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), had been investigating comments made on the Facebook group for three months. It urged members of the public to come forward if they had concerns about the online behaviour of any officers.

More: BBC says Top Gear's use of 'racist word' was acceptable

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