Fact File: Race and the Met


Thirty-two years after the first black officer Norwell Roberts applied to the Metropolitan Police “as a joke” the inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation released its report. Apparently little had changed.

In the aftermath of the 1981 Brixton riots, several recommendations for reform were made. The report from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry not only found that these had not been followed, but that the force was “institutionally racist”.

It took 18 years to secure the conviction of two of the original suspects in the Lawrence murder, by which time Equalities and Human Rights Commission chair, Trevor Phillips had declared the Met no longer institutionally racist.

When London rioted again, however, the issue once again came to the fore. With a fresh slew of racist allegations levelled against the Met and the news that racism complaints against British police officers have more than doubled in the past decade, has anything really changed?

The Numbers

9.6% – Percentage of ethnic minority officers in the Metropolitan Police. Non-white Londoners make up 29% of the population. Source: The Telegraph

167.8 per 1000 – 'Stop and search' rate for black people in the London area. For white people the rate is 40.8 per 1000 and for Asian people, 62.6 per 1000. Source: Equalities and Human Rights Commission

120 – Approximate number of Met officers found guilty of racist behaviour between 1999 and 2011. Source: The Independent on Sunday

1 in 40 – Proportion of those officers accused of racism who faced official punishment as a result of their alleged actions. Source: The Independent on Sunday

Further Reading

Life as an ethnic minority police officer, Julia Llewellyn, the Telegraph, 2012

First female Asian police officer ‘should be honoured’, Dil Neiyyar, BBC Asian Network, 2011

Analysis: Institutional racism dead? Dominic Casciani, BBC News, 2009

‘If you complain about racism, your career is finished,’ says Met detective Gurpal Singh Virdi, Nina Lakhani, The Independent, 2012

Now we know – the Met was institutionally corrupt as well, Matthew Norman, The Independent, 2012


1837 – PC John Kent, the first recorded black police officer in the UK begins his career in Carlisle

1967 – The Met’s first black officer, Norwell Roberts joins the force

1981 – Riots in Brixton. The resulting report finds evidence of the disproportionate use of stop and search powers against black people and recommends reform

1993 – Black British teenager Stephen Lawrence is murdered in a racist attack

1999 – The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report describes the Metropolitan Police as “institutionally racist” and makes 70 recommendations for reform

2009 – Equalities minister Trevor Phillips declares the police no longer institutionally racist.

2012 – PC Alex MacFarlane is suspended from the Met after a suspect uses his mobile phone to record officers allegedly abusing him.

2012 – In a meeting with Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen, the parents of murdered African American teenager Trayvon Martin call for an end to racial profiling in Britain.