Letter: Police and racism

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The Independent Culture
Police and racism

Sir: I felt disappointed and grieved by Trevor Phillips's article "Why we don't always know we're being racist" (Comment, 22 June).

I served as a Metropolitan policeman from the early Fifties to the mid- Eighties. Mr Phillips raises two issues, that of the Stephen Lawrence case and the Deptford fire which occurred in1981. I cannot comment on the former as it occurred after my retiring from the force but I have a feeling of great sympathy for the family of Stephen Lawrence and I am confident that my feelings are shared by the majority of policemen.

I was, however, close to the Deptford fire. We knew instantly that it presented us a very delicate case which would have to be dealt with meticulously. Never was a case more stringently investigated, yet without awaiting any result or any information whatsoever the West Indian community condemned it as a racial attack. They organised a march through South London attended by thousands during which windows were smashed and shops looted. No evidence emerged to indicate any outside agency. It was apparent that the fire originated inside the house

Mr Phillips suggests a minute's silence to reflect on what we lost in Deptford in 1981. I agree wholeheartedly, and I would add that it would be fitting at the same time to extend a kind word of sympathy to the family of Keith Blakelock.


Coulsdon, Surrey