I enjoyed my work as a police officer immensely and I was very good at what I did, but there was a downside to my life as a policeman, that being that I was resented by some of my fellow officers as my good work tended to show them up for their lack of work effort. It manifested itself at first in seemingly innocuous nicknames that they would assign to me such as ‘Moses’, which although not being in anyway an anti-Semitic barb, when said with other officers or members of the public being present immediately makes me stand out as obviously being different from them as a Jew.
‘Moses’ was the name assigned to me by the Spanish garage hand at Chiswick police station and was adopted by one or two others. A much nastier name was assigned to me, albeit indirectly by a fellow officer who was a stringent supporter of the Arsenal football team. Tottenham Hotspurs were their north London rivals and were known to have a large Jewish following with a number of prominent Jews on their board of directors with their famous chairman also being Jewish and so they were disparagingly referred to as the ‘Yiddo’s’. A ‘Yid’ is a virulent anti-Semitic name originating from Germany during the time of the Holocaust and refers to those German Jewish citizens who spoke the Yiddish language and is usually spoken by religious Jews and was the language of Jewish communities in Europe and still is to this day among those surviving Jewish communities and this particularly hurt as my Father-in-law is a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp and the tattooed prison number is still visible on his arm as a daily reminder of what he suffered. He would also call me ‘Hymie’ and so a conversation or greeting from this particular police officer/Arsenal supporter would consist of him saying to me something like, ‘Hey Hymie, The ‘Yids’ did well on Saturday’ or ‘Hymie, I see the ‘Yids’ lost again’ with his spoken emphasis being on the word ‘Yid’ and it was usually said in a crowded place such as the staff canteen and usually said with a big smirk on his face.
Other ways in which Antisemitism would manifest itself would be in the staff canteen at breakfast time when there was always the phrase, ‘Oh come on my boy have some bacon’, said in a heavy Jewish accent and sometimes I would have bacon waved in front of my face, again with a smirk on the face of the police officer doing it and usually accompanied by much laughter from the rest of those present in the canteen, which usually included police Sergeants and Inspectors who did nothing to stop it and in fact their acquiescence to these events helped their subordinates continue their racist taunts unabated.
It was well known that I had converted from Christianity to Judaism and I didn’t keep it a secret, why should I have, but I was treated like and I felt like I was considered to be a traitor by my fellow Christian officers, not that any of them appeared to be in the slightest bit religious, and what I have learnt from the English and growing up in England, and I suspect this to be true for the rest of Europe too, is that if you are not a white indigenous Christian then you are not truly classed by them as being a true Englishman, you are different to them, you are an outsider, a foreigner even who can’t really be trusted. I was successful at work although I felt I wasn’t receiving any reward for my hard work, just resentment.
We had a new Sergeant come to work on our relief and he was an okay kind of guy who went out of his way to show that he was ‘free thinking’ and was not racially prejudice in any way. Although he wasn’t what I would call an active ‘thief taker’ he was one of the fashionably growing tide of police officers who had joined the police to climb up through the ranks as quickly as possible by passing exams and showing he was good with the pen. He was often the Custody Officer on duty when I brought prisoners into the custody suite and as a new Sergeant on the relief he had to learn the duties involved with being a Custody Officer, a task no-one really liked doing for it was mostly a boring repetitive job although it did afford him the chance to study for his Inspectors exam, usually in peace and quiet, which, although having only recently been promoted to the rank of Sergeant, he was determined to take and pass as soon as possible. So he somewhat became intrigued by the number and quality of prisoners that I would regularly bring in to his Custody Suite and, seemingly intent on getting himself noticed with the higher ranking officers ‘upstairs’ agreed to write a report recommending me for a commendation for my hard work and high number of arrests that I was effecting on a regular basis. He said he’d write and submit the report and I gave him some background information including my traffic offences and arrest record and I didn’t hear anything more until I received notification that I was going to receive an Assistant Commissioner’s Commendation for Dedication and Professionalism.
It was a proud moment for me and my family when we went to the Metropolitan Sports and Social Club at Imber Court in Surrey to collect my award, a large framed certificate from the Deputy-Assistant Commissioner handed to me on stage in front of an invited audience.
The only other award I had received in my police service was a letter congratulating me upon a suggestion I had made to improve the police service by installing brooms in all police vehicles so that debris from road traffic accidents could be cleared up before further damage is cause by the debris. I also received a nice letter from the Crown Prosecution Service congratulating me on my high professional level of presentation for completing the necessary C.P.S. court paperwork following my many arrests.
My other subsequent Police award was for Bravery in disarming a suspect armed with a loaded gun. This followed a call to a block of flats in Chiswick which had a large round plastic walled pool in the communal garden. Some of the young residents were partying making a lot of noise and one of the elder residents, who it turned out was the former bodyguard of the late King Hussein of Jordan, decided it was disturbing him and he went down and started waving a gun around telling them to be quiet. When I arrived on the scene and went up to the informants flat the suspect emerged in the hallway still holding his gun in his hand. I went up to him and just took the gun off him, nothing too dramatic, and arrested him and luckily he didn’t put up a struggle although he was still irate and no shots were fired nor was anyone injured.
Of course these awards did nothing to improve my popularity with my fellow officers who seemed to resent me even more as their tirade of anti-Semitic barbs continued unabated, neither did a number of stints I did at New Scotland Yard where, because of my understanding of the Hebrew language, I worked for the special operations squad at CO11 and I did work for MI5 on some major operations.
The constant bombardment of racism directed towards me over time gradually and accumulatively started to affect my health and I became depressed, found it hard to sleep and lost a lot of weight and really did look very thin and drawn. I then decided that ‘enough was enough’ and that I decided that, since there was no-one to talk to at Chiswick Police Station, I would lodge an official complaint of racial discrimination with the Commission for Racial Equality at their offices in Victoria.
At the initial meeting with the C.R.E. in 1993 I was advised that because I was thinking of taking on the might of the Metropolitan Police Force then I should and must have concrete evidence that would stand up in court. Being an officer fully conversant with the standard of evidence required in legal proceedings, I decided to use my official Police issued notebook which is used on a daily basis by every Police officer to note evidence, as a daily log of the anti-Semitic abuse suffered by me at the hands of my fellow Police work colleagues. To ensure correct evidence gathering procedures, each entry I made would be date stamped and timed by the tamper proof stamping machine kept in the Custody suite at Chiswick Police Station which I got to use most days that I was on duty as the racial abuse that I was subjected to continued unabated. It got to the point that I came to work, booked out the Police panda car and went out of the Police station for a solid 8 hours just to avoid having to come into contact with my abusers and when I did and when they directed their racist comments at me I would record them in my police notebook. This became my undisputed and unchallenged evidence at the subsequent court case as it was evidence that was hard to dispute as I had used the correct legal procedures to record my evidence.
The abuse continued and it affected me more and more to the point where I became so thin that the joke going around the station was that I had Aids and needless to say not one officer inquired as to my health and upon visiting my family doctor he immediately ordered me to stay away from work as I was undoubtedly suffering from stress and depression brought on by all that was happening at work. I’d aliken what was happening to me to maybe being bullied at school that continues unabated but in this case there were no school teachers that you could complain to because all the senior officers at Chiswick Police Station knew what was going on, they witnessed it almost every day but they did nothing to stop in and in fact on a number of occasions even laughed with the others at the words being directed at me, at my religion and so who could I complain to?
After I had collected a large amount of evidence and decided that I just didn’t want to take any more of it, I again contacted the Commission for Racial Equality and informed them I was ready and willing to proceed with taking the Metropolitan Police to court for their illegal racial discrimination. The C.R.E. then duly appointed a firm of solicitors to take on my case.
The whole legal process dragged on and on and in fact the case took 3 years to reach its conclusion in court because whenever a court date would be fixed the Police would ask for an adjournment for whatever reason and this happened a few times. Just imagine that you would prepare yourself mentally for a life changing court case against the might of the Metropolitan Police Force and then you would be informed at the last moment, usually the night before, that the court case has been postponed and that we will be informed of a new court date. Of course mine and my family’s life was now totally full of stress and worry as in taking on the Metropolitan Police Force I was in effect taking on the British government as the Police Service is funded and controlled by H.M. Home Office and losing this case would in effect warrant me leaving my job and giving up our Police provided house in Wembley and we would be homeless and I’d have to resign with my tail between my legs for I considered that I would have no future in the Police force after this.
I had no other support from anyone, not even the Jewish community supported me and they seemed to just want to bury their heads in the sand and not make waves and they never offered their vocal support or any other support to me in any shape or form and I think that after the case there were a few lines in the press from the Jewish Board of Deputies congratulating me on my victory but that’s the only time I heard from them. 2 reporters were assigned to follow the case, one from a small local newspaper called ‘Shalom Newspaper’ and the other was from the national ‘Jewish Chronicle’ newspaper who both printed updates and progress in my case as it developed and in fact the Jewish Chronicle’ reporter has been in periodical contact with me to this day.
I later learned that most believed that I had no chance of winning my case and luckily for us the Metropolitan Police must have also shared the same opinion for this wasn’t a high profile media covered case about a black Police officer claiming racial abuse, this was a white Englishman who had converted to Judaism from Christianity making the claim and their approach to the court case seemed to be amateurish and sloppy as they certainly didn’t appear to be ready for what hit them in court!
I had always presumed that the Police would make an out-of-court offer to me to avoid taking the case to court as they had done in a number of previous racial abuse cases but in my case this didn’t happen.
Three weeks before the trial was due to begin the firm of Commission for Racial Equality appointed solicitors who had been handling the case suddenly withdrew from my case leaving me without legal representation. The Commission for Racial Equality was subsequently asked by the Industrial Tribunal why they withdrew their representation of me and they replied that it was done because they were advised that I had no chance of winning the case. I wonder who advised them and who put pressure on them to take this course of action?
My only recourse was to approach the Police Federation and ask them to provide me with legal representation which was my right as a member of the Police Federation and they duly provided me with a Barrister who took the case on.
On 6 June 1995 (on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War) my wife and I went to the Industrial Tribunal in Woburn Place, London with a talented Barrister provided by Police Federation funding and facing the best that the Metropolitan Police could muster and to be honest I felt embarrassed for them! The witnesses the Police called were all Police officers I had worked with and each time the Police Barrister asked them ‘Did you call PC Thomas a ‘Yid’ or other racially abusive names’? The answer was always ‘Yes’ and so until 9 June 1995 the case went on like this with the Police bringing witness after witness who turned into witnesses for us. We called no witnesses ourselves and the Police side really had no defense to the allegations which begs the question why did they allow the case to come to court without settling out of court as they had done in previous cases? The answer can only be that they really underestimated the strength of my evidence and also mine and my family’s commitment to see it through.
There were times when it got hard to carry on and their tactics in delaying the case was to try to break me, to break us as a family, and there is no doubt that because of all the stress and pressure I was under that it brought me close to the edge and maybe I fell over at some point, I’m not sure but it’s highly probable.
The final and unanimous decision of the Tribunal was that ‘the Respondent (the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police) unlawfully discriminated against the applicant (me) on racial grounds’ (court case No. 2785/94/LN/B).
In winning my court case I also changed the English racial discrimination laws to now include converts to a religion under its scope.
After our victory, which was briefly reported in the national and Jewish press, we had to prepare for the next stage of our battle which was the compensation court hearing that was scheduled to take place 2 days later at the same London Industrial Tribunal, but unbeknown to us it would take another year to come to court for the Police in having lost the case now wanted to minimize the amount of compensation that I would be awarded by the court by doing all that they could to besmirch my character. They decided that they wanted me examined and analyzed by 2 of their chosen physiatrists and that ‘our side’ would also have ‘our’ psychiatrist analyze me, bearing in mind that ‘our’ psychiatrist’ would be paid for by the Police Federation funded by the Home Office who funded the police who I had just defeated in court.
I had never dealt with this profession before, with these doctors of the mind, and I had no idea what to expect and perhaps I should have been more suspicious and not so forthcoming with information as I was but these people are experts and if they want they can get information from you without you realizing it and they can twist and make something you say to what they want it to mean for their own purposes. I stopped going to see one of these so-called experts as I really felt it to be a complete waste of time as I would often walk into his darkened surgery and he would just sit there looking out of the window or down at paperwork on his desk and he would keep the same stance of not saying a word nor changing his facial expression but then, every few minutes, he would look at his watch and you would think ‘hang on, I’m here for 20 minutes, are we going to sit like this for 20 minutes, what’s the point’? I would then say something like, ‘Are you going to say anything? And he would then start writing and after a while he would say something like ‘Would you like me to say anything’? And it would go on like this and I still to this day have no idea what that was all about! After attending 2 different psychiatrists, if that’s what they were, I actually don’t know what their titles were but one was working for the Police and the other was supposedly on our side although he was paid for by the Police Federation via the governments Home Office.
They would suggest things to me and I remember that they both seemed to inject the same idea into my head at around the same time, which in hindsight should have suggested to me that something was going on here. They started to suggest that there was nothing really wrong with me, even though I was off sick with my family doctor’s certificate stating that I was suffering from stress and depression, the cause of which was the Police’s racially discriminatory practices against me, and that in their opinion maybe I should return to work. Return to work?? How could I return to work in that environment and after I had beaten them in court and proved them to be racialist?? I started to panic and didn’t know what to do and what they subtly suggested was that I should really start to open up to them and that I should reveal to them all of my true inner thoughts about things as, according to them, being called racist names was child’s play and it shouldn’t have caused the reaction it did. Again in hindsight I realize that they were attempting to minimize the blame that could be placed upon the Police for any pain and suffering that I had endured and in lessening this effect it would attract lesser compensation at the subsequent court hearing. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and at the time I was in the hands of what I now consider to have been manipulative experts instructed by their paymasters to get results and I was under enormous stress in spite of having won the case to see it through to the end and I felt that being forced back to work amongst those who had caused me so much pain and hurt would be the end of me, I really did and maybe not physically or/and mentally but there would be no reason to not believe that on returning to work things couldn’t be ‘arranged’ by them to show me in a bad light (I avoided the expression ‘I would be ‘fitted up’ but most know what this means)! There was no way that that I could return to work as a Police officer for I believed that my career in the Police force ended with my court case victory over them but I was still in their pay and was still a serving Police officer albeit that I was off sick but if these experts said that I wasn’t ‘sick’ and if they recommend ordered me back to work, then what?
They started to lead me into theoretical situations and down avenues I hadn’t really fully explored before and I tried as hard as I could to think on my feet, for I had to think about what I was saying to them but I also had to give them enough to agree that I was in fact sick and was not in a fit state to return to work and all in all they span me around in circles and it became that I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Of course, growing up in the circumstances that I grew up in and my periods of depression through my teens were just the triggers and reasons that these psychiatrists needed to show that the Police, although guilty of racially discriminating against me, were not wholly culpable for my reactive depression, in other words, they would press hard during the upcoming compensation hearing that they should pay me reduced compensation for my pain and suffering and for sure they would reveal to the court all that they had found during their experts examinations of me.
So, I had won my court case against the Police but now we would have to face another 2 day court hearing in a battle to gain some financial compensation for what I had suffered at the hands of the Metropolitan Police and to be honest I had very little fight left in me, they had drained it all out of me and waiting a whole year while all of these constant visits to the psychiatrists were going on and not knowing what would be left its toll on us all and we really decided that we had had enough of it all.
To further break our resolve and to try to stick the knife in for the last time, the very night before our compensation court hearing was due to be heard in court, our Barrister provided to us by Police Federation funding informed us that he wouldn’t be representing us as the Police Federation had withdrawn their funding for him and that we would be left to face the Metropolitan Police on our own in court the next day and this time there really was no time to find a legal replacement for our barrister! The next day outside the court room we made contact with the Police barrister and agreed to settle the case before the court hearing and accepted compensation from them which would enable us to take the course we had decided and was best for us as a family and that was to resign from the police force and leave England and return to live in Israel which we did after I had resigned from the Police in July 1996.
The Police were determined to have another go at getting me after the case had finally finished. I had resigned from the Police Force and we were busily making the final arrangements to leave The UK when I suddenly received a summons through the post to attend court to answer a charge of keeping a dangerous dog! At first we tried to laugh it off but then we realized that they were serious, I had just beaten them in court and they were trying to get back at me through my dog, how pathetic! Apparently Major, our lovely German Shepherd dog had been in the park when it started fighting with another dog, as dogs sometimes do and the owner had made a complaint to the police.
Well, as a former serving police officer I had never ever been called to court to prosecute a ‘dangerous dog’ case and these are rare events. Though and behold when I got to court there was a Police Sergeant as well as a constable both chomping at the bit to get me in court and convict me for keeping a dangerous dog – a dog in fact so dangerous that our 2 cats, Pandy and Tiger often used to both jump out of my sons first floor window onto his back while he was in the back garden to scare him and he used to run shaking into his dog kennel! Anyway, I had a quiet word with this sergeant and told him that he should take advice on whether he really wants to proceed with this case as I will have the press and TV down to the court very quickly to show how vindictive and petty minded the Police are in having lost the case trying to get back at me! Well, needless to say, the Sergeant and his constable were never seen again and I received a letter informing me that the case of keeping a dangerous dog had been dropped