Blunkett attacks BBC film of racist police trainee

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The Independent Online

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has led the Government into a new row with the BBC after attacking an undercover documentary on police racism, calling it a "covert stunt".

The BBC film, made by a journalist posing as a police trainee, showed a recruit wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood make racist comments about an Asian colleague.

The recruit, who is now a serving policeman, said he wanted to "eradicate" Asians from Britain.

He also praised the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence, the black student murdered in London in 1993, saying he thought they should be given "diplomatic immunity".

But in a statement, the Home Secretary criticised the programme, The Secret Policeman, which will be shown tomorrow night.

He said: "We have raised concerns with the BBC not about their right to expose racism but their intent to create, not report, a story. And to do so in a way that did not present the detail for action to be taken but as a covert stunt to get attention."

The BBC undercover operation was stopped after the reporter, Mark Daly, was exposed in August and arrested on suspicion of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and of damaging police property. Greater Manchester Police, the force that he infiltrated, claimed Daly, who is still on bail, had prevented another officer from being employed.

Mr Blunkett accused the BBC of attempting to justify its controversial methods by "developing controversy" around the story through "carefully placed media leaks".

But Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the film's findings were "shocking" and that the officers exposed as racists must be dismissed.

He said: "They have got to go. These people should not be in uniform."

Mr Phillips said that he would be discussing the matter with the Home Secretary and that the BBC had uncovered problems the police's own procedures had failed to detect.

"I would be surprised if people paid more attention to the manner of the reporting than the actual allegations themselves," he said. "That seems to me not quite the right sense of priorities."

Mr Phillips said that he would be writing to all the chief constables in England and Wales to ask them to detail the procedures they had in place to prevent overt racists from joining their forces.

In response to Mr Blunkett's attack, the BBC - which had created a separate bank account so that the reporter's police salary could be repaid - issued a statement defending its reporting techniques.

"We believe that the evidence that we have obtained would not have come to light in any other way than through undercover filming," it said.

Mr Daly targeted Greater Manchester Police after David Wilmot, the then Chief Constable, said in 1998 that there was "institutionalised racism" in the force. The process of getting into the police took Daly about a year.

Using cameras concealed in his uniform and in a stereo in his room, the reporter filmed his fellow trainees at the force's Bruche training school in Warrington, Cheshire.

In one exchange, Mr Daly filmed a recruit relaxing on a bed, sipping a can of lager and talking about the case of Stephen Lawrence.

The recruit said: "He fucking deserved it and his mum and dad are a fucking pair of spongers."

The murder provoked a crisis in confidence in British policing as the resultant Macpherson inquiry exposed institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police.

But the racist recruit said that the murderers had "done for this country what others should do" and described the Macpherson inquiry report as a "kick in the bollocks for any white man".

The same officer was filmed wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and suggesting a visit to an Asian officer's room.

He said that his aim was to eradicate the whole country of "people like him".

He said: "I'd kill him. I'd pull my fucking hood on my head and fucking chase him down the road."

Both the Asian recruit and the racist trainee are understood to have passed their examinations and are now serving police officers.