CLAIMS that senior officers at Cleveland Police conspired to cover up institutional racism will be investigated by an external police force, it has emerged.

Complaints about the management of the force’s internal equality review – a document that concluded there was “clear resonance” with the definition of institutional racism at Cleveland – were referred to police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last month.

The IPCC has now returned the matter to Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, who has decided in the “interests of ethical independence” that an external police force should investigate the matters.

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The equality review was started in 2011 after concerns were raised by the Black Police Association.

The Northern Echo can now reveal that some of the grievances sent to the IPCC about the review include claims that the process was secretive, and watered down the extent of racism towards black and minority ethnic (BME) officers within the force.

One officer claims treatment of BME officers had been worse since the review was completed in 2012.

One of the complaints, which has been seen by The Northern Echo, criticises senior officers including Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer.

It says: “The Equality Review was and is a process designed and implemented to create a smokescreen regarding the truth about black and minority ethnic officer treatment within Cleveland Police.”

It goes on to allege that senior officers had “fundamentally changed the scope of the Equality Review to hide (or that has resulted in hiding) discriminatory conduct within Cleveland Police.

“They have behaved in a manner which undermines public confidence in it and this conduct has only served to “hide” the behaviours that were indicative of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.”

It also claims that senior officers, in media coverage, had “failed to disclose the true nature of the submissions by BME officers, the criminal allegations (made by BME officers) that were ignored by the former management team, the abuse directed at BME officers.”

The latest draft of the Equality Review has been kept as a restricted report by Cleveland Police, but has been seen by The Northern Echo. It shows that BME officers felt they were being overlooked for promotion, feeling there was a “glass ceiling”, and they felt they suffered harsher discipline than white officers.

Last night Cleveland Police said they had nothing else to add at this point as the investigation is ongoing.

Mrs Cheer has previously denied that the force is institutionally racist, but said it had serious issues to address. She has also said that since the review was commissioned, a new promotion process had been put in place, and a new set of “values” had been introduced to link to the force’s Code of Ethics. A new reward and recognition process had also been put in place as a result of the review’s findings.