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Pioneering Black Cop

Jun 28 2002
By Vicky Wilks, South London Press

WHEN David Michael joined the Met in 1972, he was the first black cop to be posted to Lewisham.

He told the South London Press: "I didn't have a hard time but the environment could be difficult - crude, racist language went unchallenged."

At the time, the community and the local authority had posted a motion of no confidence in the police.

The situation worsened when the force launched an operation to crack down on street robbery and pickpocketing.

It became highly controversial because it targeted many young black men. But it ended successfully with a string of convictions at the Old Bailey.

Now a Detective Chief Inspector, David Michael went on to found the Met's Black Police Association - a support network for black staff.

He has twice acted as the BPA's chairman and is now an executive member.

During the 1970s he was commended twice by the Met Police Commissioner for his work on a robbery case and a burglary case.

In 1993, he was honoured for work on a murder case and in 1995 he received a medal for long service and good conduct.

But his commendations were followed by a bitter battle - he claimed that while working as a senior detective he wasn't promoted because of his skin colour.

In November 1998, Scotland Yard agreed to an undisclosed settlement for racial discrimination.

He has since gone on to support other victims of discrimination in the force including Sergeant Gurpal Virdi who received £90,000 compensation after he was wrongly accused of sending racist hate mail to colleagues.

The DCI has also been one of the most outspoken supporters of ousted Lambeth Borough Commander Brian Paddick and has acted as an expert witness on police racism for the Commission for Racial Equality.

During his time with the Met, DCI Michael has worked in many roles - largely in inner city areas including Lewisham and Southwark - including child protection, murders, and investigating international and organised crime.

He is currently working in a role that sees him reviewing internal fairness at work and is due to retire in December.

The dad-of-two is a member of community police consultative groups in Lewisham and Lambeth.

Inspector Paul Dalley, who nominated David for an OUR HEROES Inspirational Worker award, said: "Despite being a victim of discriminatory treatment within the police, David has harnessed his knowledge for the good of the service and the local community.

"David selflessly promotes equal opportunities and does so from a balanced position. "His advice has saved thousands of pounds in court costs to the police - money better spent on the community.

"He always seeks ways to help move the police forward and promote understanding of the issues."