Detective sacked for gross misconduct after calling black officer a ‘choc ice’

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A top detective has been sacked for a “serious act of discrimination” after he referred to a black officer as a “choc ice”.

Ex-chief inspector Stewart Miller, who led high-profile murder and rape investigations in Humberside, was sacked for gross misconduct.

Chairman of the disciplinary panel Simon Mallet said his comments were “incredibly damaging” to public perception of the police, Hull Live reports.

Giving the decision of instant dismissal, he said that unconscious racism had been at play in Mr Miller’s case, but that this was still a “serious act of discrimination”.

“The use of language was very serious and the fact that a senior officer in the Humberside Force can use such language is incredibly damaging and undermines race relations,” he said.

Mr Miller, who had been a police officer for more than two decades until this afternoon, admitted that remarking to a colleague: “[He] isn’t fat or diabetic and has a good job so doesn’t fit in to the category, in fact he is as close to white as he can be, in fact he’s a choc ice.”

The counter terrorism trained officer added: “[He] is probably more white and middle class than I am.”

The statements were made to a detective inspector in relation to a black officer who had been raising concerns about his safety while working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He made the racist comments in June – just months after receiving disciplinary action in relation to two cases of disreputable conduct, which came to light during the hearing.

The officer of 21 years service said that he only realised what “choc ice” meant after Googling the term.

He said he only made the comment, in his role as specialist command officer for coronavirus, to emphasise that the BAME officer did not need to shield at home during the Covid-19 pandemic as he did not meet the “risk factors” for doing so.

Ex-Ch Insp Miller argued that the comments did not amount to gross misconduct – something that the panel disagreed with.

“The comments were racist, offensive, inappropriate and breached standards and equality and diversity,” said legally qualified panel chair Mr Mallet, who was also joined by Detective Superintendent Laura Koscikiewicz and independent panel member Yvonne Fisher.

“The officer said that he did not know that the term choc ice was racist or derogatory and was horrified when he found out what it meant, but denies gross misconduct.

“He said it was an off the cuff comment that he should not have made an was suspended, but said that he was ‘not a racist’.

“When asked what he meant by saying ‘white middle class’ he has that in hindsight he should not have used the term ‘white’ but that 90% of the population would put the term ‘white’ before middle class.”

Mr Mallet said the comments were damaging for the Humberside force, particularly in a time where there are “national concerns about the policing of black communities” – alluding to the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Former Chief Inspector Miller, who has led investigations into the notorious murder of Shaun Lyall and a rape under Railway Street bridge in Grimsby, said the comments on June 8 in his office in Birchin Way police station in Grimsby.

He claimed he thought that “choc ice” meant that someone had a blended lifestyle of black and white cultures and that he said it in ignorance.

But the panel chair said that even this was racially offensive as it suggested that a white lifestyle was above a black one, as was suggesting that a black man was “more white” than him.

He also said it was racist to refer to a “blended lifestyle” as it suggesting dropping a black culture to take on a superior white one.

Ch Insp Stewart Miller said that the racist comments were made in the “background of Covid” and used “by mistake, in error and ignorance and used in a clumsy way that was not meant to be racist”.

He said it was a “momentary accidental mistake, over in seconds”.

Even though the panel accepted that the officer was under “significant pressure” at work and balancing “numerous responsibilities”, his excuses did not allow him to keep his job.

They said he should have been careful in the language that he uses as it influences the culture of the team and that regardless of rank, all police officers are aware of the importance of diversity and treating everyone “fairly and with respect.”

“The officer accepts that he used the term choc ice and accepts that it was derogatory and racist as it means a black person that has sold out their heritage,” said Mr Mallett.

“Referring to a BAME officer as ‘choc ice’ without knowing the meaning of it is a serious failing and he should not have used that expression.

“It is an offensive and insulting expression to use and should not be used at all – it is a racist expression.

“It fell far below the language expected by a police officer, especially a senior officer and the use of language demonstrated unconscious racism.

“It is incredibly damaging to the public perception (of the police) and damaging to race relations locally in a time when there are major national concerns about the policing of black communities.”

Ch Insp Miller has led high-profile police investigations in the past, including the case of a fairground worker who raped a 20-year-old woman in Grimsby as she walked home from work.

After a large-scale manhunt, Henry Froggatt was eventually jailed for 10 years and 10 months for his crimes.

He also led the appeals to try and find the killer of Shaun Lyall, who was found dead at his home in July 2018.

Craig Whittle was jailed for life after the horrific murder, with a judge condemning the “extreme violence” used after a court heard Mr Lyall suffered 170 separate injuries during the fatal attack.

But his previous track record in the force could not save him from immediate dismissal today.

Presenting the case against Mr Miller, Olivia Checa-Dover urged the panel to dismiss him without notice and said that there was “no room for racism at any rank”.

She said that he could not rely on good character as he did not have an “unblemished record” due in February facing “disciplinary action in relation to two cases of disreputable conduct”.

In defence of Mr Miller, Alex Menary pleaded for the panel to instead give him a written warning or demote him in rank instead of dismissing him as it was “an accidental error” and the officer was “full of remorse” and had made an “honest, genuine mistake”.

Issuing his sanction, Mr Mallet said: “There is public interest in the retention of officers like this one with his particular skills and experience.

“But racism in the force is wholly unacceptable and neither a written warning or demotion in rank would be enough.

“Public confidence and reputation of the force can only be obtained with immediate dismissal.”