The Met faces another troubled chapter.
Three police officers in east London have been placed on restricted duties for allegedly making racist comments, Scotland Yard has said, two days after the Metropolitan police commissioner urged his staff to report inappropriate behaviour by colleagues and declared he would "not stand for any racism or racists".
In a development likely to deepen the row over allegations of racism within its ranks, Scotland Yard said on Thursday that after "careful consideration" it had decided to voluntarily refer the alleged incidents to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on Wednesday night. The IPCC confirmed that an investigation was under way following the referral.
The three uniformed officers – two PCs and an acting police sergeant based in Newham – are alleged to have made the remarks this year between 6 January and 15 March. Scotland Yard said the comments had been brought to the attention of the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) on 19 March, two weeks before the emergence of separate allegations of racism in the wake of the riots. It added that none of the three officers were involved in the latter allegations.
In a statement, Commander Peter Spindler of the DPS said: "These are serious allegations that are being thoroughly investigated so that robust action can be taken if proven. The commissioner has already stated there is no place for racist behaviour in the MPS and we will work with the IPCC to identify any wrongdoing."
The past week has brought the issue of alleged racism within Scotland Yard into the spotlight after the Guardian released an audio recording in which a police officer could be heard using offensive racist slurs against a 21-year-old black man arrested after the riots last year.
The officer, PC Alex MacFarlane, has been suspended and senior lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service are reviewing the case.
The sense of crisis deepened on Monday after it emerged that one of the officers present when the racist remarks were made, PC Joe Harrington, had allegedly assaulted another black teenager hours later. Harrington, who was the subject of an investigation, has been placed on restricted duties. The Met is considering what, if any, disciplinary action to take against him.
In reaction to the controversy, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, gave a personal address to his staff on Tuesday, saying he had been shocked by the allegations and would not put up with racism within the force.
He added: "We have a duty to challenge or report any behaviour by colleagues which is less than the high standard demanded by the service and Londoners themselves," he said. "You cannot avoid that duty. Nor can I."