‘Perverse and retrograde’: Merseyside Police officer avoids dismissal after racist remark
‘He chose to target the only black person in the room for degrading, dehumanising, 70s canteen-culture racist humour’
Dear readers — welcome to your weekly briefing. Last week a Merseyside Police officer was found guilty of making a racist comment to a colleague and given a final warning. Today we’re looking at the incident — including exclusive details revealed to The Post — after the ruling was criticised for failing to address the magnitude of the offence. It comes after Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell described the force as “institutionally racist” back in May.
On Saturday we published Sophie’s brilliant interview with Wirral-born author Tabitha Lasley, following the release of her highly-commended debut Sea State about the lives of off-shore oil rig workers in Aberdeen. One comment read: “Fascinating piece. All the more remarkable for it being a two bottle of wine interview”. Lasley herself was similarly full of praise, calling it her “favourite of all the interviews I’ve ever done”. Not bad, considering she’s also popped up in The Guardian and LA Times.
Last week we sent out two great stories to our members. On Wednesday we published a piece by Mollie about the tragic death of Haydn Griffiths, who died whilst swimming out to the wind turbines in Liverpool Bay on a first date. Mollie attended a vigil for Haydn and spoke to his sisters, who paid touching tributes.
Then on Friday we treated you a hilariously biting article from David Lloyd, continuing his string of excellent appearances on The Post. This time he had former council cabinet member for Regeneration Macolm Kennedy (dubbed the councillor for Kirkdale-upon-Madrid due to his 17 month stint attending meetings via video link from Spain) in the crosshairs for his failure of Liverpool’s markets. The piece featured a phone exchange between David and Kennedy that was hilarious and depressing in equal measure, culminating in Kennedy calling David a “pussy”.
Last weekend the champagne was out at Post HQ as we burst through the 500 subscriber barrier, a big achievement that we’ve been working towards for months. We won’t be resting on our laurels though, with the 1000 mark now firmly in our sights. If you want to contribute to the (rapidly-growing) Post family and support our mission to bring back high quality local journalism, then do consider sending this email on to any friends or family who may enjoy it. Journalism isn’t cheap to do, so the more people we get on board the more resources we can put into time-consuming, investigative pieces.
🌞 This week’s weather
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from the Met Office and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: ‘Perverse and retrograde’: Merseyside Police officer avoids dismissal after racist remark
Top line: Merseyside Police have been heavily criticised after an officer found guilty of making a racist remark to a colleague was given a final written warning rather than being dismissed.
The incident: One account of the hearing heard by The Post described how, in August 2021, Sergeant Craig Baker approached mixed-race “Temp Sergeant A” in the constables writing room, where the unnamed sergeant told Baker he was cleaning chocolate off a face mask. Baker then approached him, touched the side of his face and neck and said “it’s not coming off”. Baker then left the room and said “don’t be putting me in your notebook for racism,” as he exited.
The ruling: A two-day misconduct hearing took place last Monday and Tuesday at Merseyside Police headquarters in front of a three person panel.
Temp Sergeant A’s evidence was described by the misconduct panel as “unwavering and consistent” whilst Baker’s was “manifestly inconsistent” after he argued that the incident had been embellished, according to the account heard by The Post.
Baker’s behaviour was ruled as “gross misconduct”, offering three possible sanctions: a final written warning, a reduction in rank or dismissal without notice. The panel decided to issue a final written warning which will remain on Baker’s record for five years.
Key details: In mitigation it was noted that the incident wasn't a premeditated act and that Baker had overwhelmingly positive testimonials. However, it was also said that he failed to show remorse for his actions. Temp Sergeant A said it was the worst incident of racism he had ever experienced in the police. He felt “angry, upset and degraded”.
Vinny Tomlinson — an activist who attended the hearing — called the decision “perverse and retrograde”. Tomlinson served in Merseyside Police between 1997 and 2017 and chaired the Merseyside Black Police Association from 2005 to 2010. The latter organisation was set up in the early 90s as large numbers of black Merseyside Police staff were leaving the force due to their treatment. He told The Post:
“[Baker] chose to target the only black person in the room for degrading, dehumanising, 70s canteen-culture racist ‘humour’ in front of other officers and thought this was okay.”
The panel chair said that the purpose of the hearing was to ensure public confidence, not simply to punish the offender. Tomlinson argues that it has failed on this front, as the black community will now be aware an officer who made these remarks is still employed by the force. “If he was my officer I would have no faith in him acting fairly or treating race issues seriously at all,” he said.
In a statement, Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley said that “the faith invested in Sergeant Baker to uphold high standards of behaviour was found to be misplaced.” He added: “I know there will be colleagues in the organisation who will understandably feel let down. I can assure them that this investigation has been assessed as gross misconduct throughout by the appropriate authority.”
Institutional: In May, Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell openly agreed that the area’s force was institutionally racist. Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, rebutted this, saying: “I categorically do not believe that Merseyside police is institutionally racist.”
Two months ago Tomlinson was invited to the launch presentation of the National Police Race Action Plan, where he was able to confront Kennedy. “I said it to her face, you are ignorant,” he tells The Post. “That wasn’t meant to be rude, I was simply saying there are things she doesn’t understand and that in 10 years time she’ll probably come closer to my views.”
Your Post briefing
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Football commentator Martin Tyler has apologised after referring to “Hillsborough and other hooligan-related issues,” in a BBC interview. Tyler had been discussing the “crisis” football was facing in the early 90s when the Premier League was about to launch. Metro mayor Steve Rotheram called the comments “exceptionally crass” and said: “even now, people whose careers are built on football still spread these foul smears”. Tyler later apologised and corrected his comments, saying “there is no connection at all between the Hillsborough disaster and hooliganism — I know that, and I was not implying that there was.”
Professor Michael Parkinson — an expert in regeneration and author of Liverpool on the Brink — told The Baltic Triangle Podcast that he is “fairly optimistic” about Liverpool’s economy despite its current troubles and believes “the five to ten year outlook is pretty decent”. The city’s economic performance tends to be criticised in comparison to cities like Manchester and Leeds but Parkinson points to strengths in the knowledge economy, the renaissance of the port and the visitor economy as all having “great potential”. He said: “It is important when times are difficult not to start saying ‘oh my God, we are doomed’. We have to say ‘yes this is challenging, but what does our underlying economy look like?” You can find the podcast here.
Nazi cigarettes, condoms and the only known memo announcing the death of Adolf Hitler will be on display at Liverpool's Western Approaches later this year after being discovered in the wreckage of a sunken U-Boat. Other artefacts included secret dispatches from Nazi higher-ups and an enigma machine. U-Boat 543 was sunken off the coast of a Danish island in 1945 and then raised in 1993. Until now though, its contents were left untouched. The team at non-profit organisation Big Heritage have now compiled hundreds of the items as part of a U-Boat Story attraction.
A striking sculpture made from more than 100,000 blades has gone on display in Birkenhead Park, prompting a mass amnesty in the area. Since The Knife Angel — which was designed over the course of two years by artist Alfie Bradley — went up, more than 350 knives were surrendered locally. Superintendent Phil Mullally of Merseyside Police called it a “fantastic month”. The sculpture has now toured across the country since 2018 and is intended to highlight the danger of knife crime and serve as an educational tool for young people to think about the consequences of carrying weapons.
Home of the week
A two bedroom flat in the Grade II listed Allerton Priory is on the market for £440,000. Built in the French Gothic style, it was once run by nuns as a refuge for unmarried Irish girls, and has now been converted into luxury flats.
🎨 FACT is celebrating the redesign of its gallery space with a gathering on Saturday afternoon which includes music, an installation and street food from Bundobust. It’s free to register, and includes work by Bootle-born artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman, who works with collage, glitter and motifs.
🥬 A two hour foraging expedition in Lymm on Saturday afternoon with a nature expert will show you the wild food grown in UK suburbia and how to identify their poisonous lookalikes. Tickets are £18, and include tasters.
⛵️ We enjoyed the new exhibition Arrivals/Departures at Victoria Gallery and Museum, an exploration of diaspora and migration by Irish artist Fion Gunn. More info here.
🌏 On The Ground: The Story of Trans-Nzoia Through The Trees, the work of photographer Frederick Dharshie Wissah, who spent two months in the Kitale forest in Kenya, is on display at Open Eye Gallery this month as part of a series of exhibitions looking at climate change. More info here.
✏️ If you’d like to try sketching for beginners, North End Sketch Club is meeting tomorrow morning at 10.30 in Homebaked Bakery in Anfield for a relaxed drawing session over pies. More info here.
🗣 Shakespeare North is hosting a spoken word session tomorrow evening which welcomes poets and spoken word artists to take to the stage. Tickets are £3, or pay as you feel.
Our favourite reads
For The London Review of Books, Tabitha Lasley writes about the seductions and scandals of an American cult in this review of Faith Morgan’s haunting memoir. Lasley writes: “The cult was full of exhausted single mothers whose partners had cleared off to the other side of the world. Conditions were cramped, with four or five families packed into one house, and children grew up semi-feral. Most didn’t go to school: there was no point, with the end times just around the corner.”
In a great report for Novara Media, Sophie Atkinson asks whether the response to the monkeypox outbreak is perpetuating existing health inequalities across England. She finds that the number of monkeypox vaccines circulating in Liverpool is concerningly low compared to the cohort of men in the city who may need the vaccine, and a failing communications strategy that may leave men slipping through the cracks.
In a first person piece for Hyped On Melancholy, David Hering, professor of contemporary literature at the University of Liverpool, writes about Britpop. “I bought Blur’s Parklife upstairs in a windowless newsagent in Liverpool on a chilly October evening in 1994 during the twilight of the Conservative government. A friend had been feeding me a steady succession of her tapes of American lo-fi and British shoegaze, and I was in that wild zone, wide open to everything.”
We enjoyed revisiting this interview with Liverpool-born writer Anthony Quinn in The Independent, where he discusses his book The Rescue Man, the story of a lonely architect named Tom Baines who joins the rescue teams digging survivors out of the bombed buildings of 1940s Liverpool. “Baines's commitment to Liverpool endures throughout the novel. Even after the bombers have gone and the city's ruined economy is at the start of its post-war decline, he cannot leave. Quinn seems cosily ensconced on his sofa in north London, so that deep-rooted sense of pride about the place can't, I assume, be autobiographical. ‘Liverpool is one of those places you can't feel neutral about,’ he admits.”
Photo of the week
Late summer on Ainsdale Beach, by photographer Rebecca Campbell via Unsplash.
Letters from readers
Just look across the North of England to see markets combining tradition, innovation and affordability. Google further and look at Melbourne's markets to witness a great day out plus entertainment in the evening. The inspiration is there to be found, but it seems that we get our ideas for civic pride, community and aesthetics from designers of mortuaries (‘Liverpool's markets have been condemned by staggering arrogance and complacency’), Liz
Another great, if very poignant article. What a terrible tragedy it was and still is, and how awful it must be for all concerned. It's a very deceptive scene, you're on a Lovely, soft warm beach, on a beautiful sunny day, and the water looks so inviting, you wade in, and it feels good, so you decide to swim out, as has been mentioned, you don't quite realise the pull of the tides or the undercurrents, (for which the Mersey is notorious) and before you know it, you've lost sight of land, then of course panic sets in (‘A first date on the beach turns to tragedy. Why are our shores so dangerous?’), Baz