Letter: Met must change

Sir: Sir Paul Condon clearly does not understand what institutional racism is. He confuses an institution with the motivation of the individuals who make it up. I headed an organisation which I had no hesitation in saying was racist. This did not mean that I believed that the staff of Lambeth Council were motivated by the desire to exclude or discriminate against black people. On the contrary, I was heartened by the knowledge that the majority of white staff supported the elimination of racism in Council services.

It is not a matter of the particular motivation of police officers but the systems, procedures and ethos and assumptions of the institution as a whole. That is what is referred to when one speaks of institutional racism.

In the last 15 or so years attempts by the police to recruit and retain ethnic minority staff have come to very little. It is not enough to change the personnel if you don't change the systems that support them. It is not enough to have support systems in place if the basic assumption of the police is that to be a police officer is really to be white (and male).

Sir Paul may be the most progressive and enlightened Commissioner ever but this cannot mean that he can continue to preside over defensiveness and complacency. The Met, like most other institutions in Britain, is racist. It needs to change, but first it must acknowledge the need to change.

LINDA BELLOS

London SE15

The writer is a former leader of Lambeth Council

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