London police chief to resign after series of scandals

Other News Materials 2 October 2008 22:02 (UTC +04:00)

Scotland Yard chief Ian Blair announced his resignation Thursday, following a series of allegations ranging from corruption to racism to the shooting by police of a Brazilian man mistaken for a terrorist in 2005, dpa reported.

Blair, 55, Britain's top policeman, said he had taken the decision to step down on December 1 "in the best interest of the people of London."

He insisted that his decision to step down from the "proudest task of my life" had nothing to do with "any failures" or "pressures of work."

While Blair said he would have liked to stay on in the job until his current contract expired in January, 2010, he said the new Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had made it clear that he wanted him to go.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she had accepted Blair's decision "with regret" and praised the commissioner's record of fighting terrorism and crime in London.

She said Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson would take over from Blair in December.

Blair has recently been under fire for alleged corruption in allocating contracts on communications strategy to a long-time friend.

But more importantly, the Metropolitan Police commissioner has been embroiled in a damaging and sensitive row with top Asian officers in the London police force who have accused him of "racial discrimination."

The police chief's biggest headache, however, has been the controversy surrounding the shooting by police of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian electrician mistaken for a terrorist by armed officers during an anti-terrorism hunt in 2005.

Blair has repeatedly apologized for the "mistake" made in the de Menezes case, which is currently the subject of a potentially damaging inquest at which the family of the victim and police officers are called as witnesses.

The inquest, in which a jury will rule on whether or not de Menezes was "unlawfully killed," is due to deliver its verdict in December.

De Menezes was shot seven times in the head by anti-terrorism officers who pursued him on to an Underground train at London's Stockwell station on July 22, 2005, believing he was a terrorist suspect.

The incident came a day after police foiled what they said was a planned suicide attack on London's transport system aimed at causing fresh carnage in the city only two weeks after the London train and bus bombings of July 7, 2005, in which 52 people were killed and more than 700 injured.

Last month, Blair suspended from duty Tarique Ghaffur, the top Asian officer in the London police force.

Ghaffur had publicly accused Blair of discrimination on the grounds of race, age and religion and is preparing to take his case to a tribunal.

Ghaffur, 50, is a Ugandan Asian who joined the police service in Britain at the age of 16 and rose to the third-highest position in the prestigious force.

He has accused Blair of "wilful victimization" and said he was sidelined from his role as chief officer in charge of London's 2012 Olympic Games.

Blair's handling of the controversy brought a storm of protest from the Association of Black Police Officers, which said Ghaffur was being "bullied and victimized."

Two other top Asian members in the police force have also lodged complaints of discrimination.

Johnson, who took over as London mayor in May, has said that the "issues surrounding Blair" had become a "distraction from the task of policing London."