AN internal investigation into how Cleveland Police treats its black and ethnic minority staff has uncovered institutional racism, The Northern Echo can reveal.

The initial findings come days after former Cleveland traffic officer Sultan Alam was awarded £800,000 compensation by the force after being wrongfully jailed over a malicious prosecution brought by colleagues in 1996.

Last night, the 49-year-old, who made claims of racial abuse against the force, said he believed things had not improved and called for the whole report – not just its findings – to be made public.

He said racism had now gone “underground” with ethnic minorities being denied the same opportunities as their white counterparts.

Acting Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer commissioned the inquiry after taking over last year.

No details have been released but it is understood to relate to some ethnic minority officers feeling they are overlooked for promotion and that they face harsher discipline than white officers.

The final findings are expected to be published this summer, but the interim report raises some issues of institutional racism.

Acting Chief Constable Cheer said last night: “There is a resonance between the initial findings and the definition of institutional racism as set out in the Macpherson report.

“The review has not provided any evidence to suggest that the force or any individuals within it are racist in their dealings with the public.

“It is important to ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to fulfil their potential and be treated with respect and dignity.”

Steve Matthews, chair of Cleveland’s Police Federation, said: “I welcome anything that checks and double checks that people are being treated fairly.

“I don’t feel there is a problem with racism in the force. If I did I would be shouting it from the rooftops.”

Mr Alam served half his 18-month sentence before his conviction was overturned and was reinstated before retiring on health grounds in 2009.

Charges of perverting the course of justice made against four senior officers were later dropped in 2004.

“The problem is that Cleveland is a very small force,” he said. “It is very cliquey and everyone knows each other and it is difficult to try to change attitudes in a situation like that.

“When I was reinstated at Cleveland I found that there were some of the same gripes and same complaints among minority groups that I had heard years before.

“I consider it to be a serious issue and the gripes include lack of opportunities for promotion.

“Also people feel that if a white officer does something wrong, he might get a warning but if a black officer does something he will get the book thrown at him.

“Don’t get me wrong, the majority of Cleveland’s officers are decent but it is a small minority that is the problem.”

However, Cleveland Police said it had not uncovered problems with individual officers – rather processes requiring improvement.

Chief Con Cheer added: “Following some concerns raised, I appointed a team to look at the extent that black and ethnic minority officers and staff within Cleveland Police may be subject to workplace discrimination.

“A number of aspects of the force have been examined and interviews with relevant staff have taken place.

“The review is timely and necessary due to the recent implementation of the Equality Act 2010, which has combined a number of key pieces of legislation making the law consistent, clearer and easier to understand. The Act also places an emphasis on personal responsibility to deal with discriminatory behaviour.”

There are 27 black or ethnic minority police officers at Cleveland Police, three civilian staff and three volunteer special constables.

Vice chair of Cleveland Police Authority, Aslam Hanif, has been involved in the review process which is still ongoing. Once it has been completed and a final report available it will be considered by the authority.