Letter: Police racism

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Police racism

Sir: The apparent discrepancy between the views of David Wilmot, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, and Sir Paul Condon, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, about whether or not their forces are subject to institutional racism may be a problem of semantics, not facts ("Police chief admits racism in ranks", 14 October).

In 1981, when I was chief instructor at the Metropolitan Police Training School, Hendon, we used the racism definitions developed by Professor Judy Katz of the University of Oklahoma.

In this model institutional racism is defined as racism which is embedded in the policies and practices of an organisation and is distinguished from endemic racism, in which the members of an organisation are seen to be racist. If, for instance, the height restriction for males for entry to the police service was 5ft 9in, which is approximately the median height for white Anglo-Saxon males, but the median height for people from a background in the Indian sub-continent is 5ft 5in, then the second group are discriminated against by reason of a policy. That is institutional racism.

Bearing in mind the substantial policy changes (including removal of height restrictions) that have taken place in the Met since the 1980s, it is quite possible that institutional racism is minimal. That does not mean to say that individual racism is not endemic in the force.

If you want the right answer you must ask the right question.


Principal Lecturer

Institute of Criminal Justice Studies

University of Portsmouth