Plea to end racism in police force

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The Independent Online
THE COMMISSION for Racial Equality yesterday called on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry to recommend wide-ranging and urgent reforms to stamp out a pervasive culture of racism within the police service.

Sir Herman Ouseley, chairman of the CRE, said that without a comprehensive approach to tackle institutional racism within the police and other large organisations, changes would be "only marginal, with limited and superficial impact".

Sir Herman's views are expressed in a letter accompanying the CRE's submission to the second part of the public inquiry, which is examining the lessons to be learnt from events surrounding Stephen's racially motivated murder in 1993.

They echo those of Robin Oakley, one of the Metropolitan Police's most eminent advisers on race. As reported in yesterday's Independent, Dr Oakley has told the inquiry in his submission that there is a culture of institutional racism within the police service, and that it may have affected the actions of every officer who investigated Stephen's murder.

In a letter to Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, chairman of the inquiry, Sir Herman urges him to interpret his remit as widely as possible. Recommendations to improve the investigation and prosecution of racial crime should be made within the context of "a policy of overall non-tolerance of racism in any form", he says.

As far as the police are concerned, he adds, the traditional response to allegations of racism has been to blame a few "bad apples", suggesting that "only a little tinkering ... is needed, instead of disinfecting the whole barrel". The inquiry should recommend that the culture of the Metropolitan Police be "irrevocably changed", he says, in order to "eradicate once and for all the dreadful effects of pervasive institutional racism".

In the submission, the CRE says there is a "vast gulf between policy and practice" on race within the Met. "The evidence that has emerged from Part One of the inquiry suggests that there continues to be an unacceptable institutional racist culture which manifests itself as racial insensitivity and negative racial stereotyping."

In the covering letter, Sir Herman says that Lord Scarman's report on the Brixton riots in 1981 did not lead to significant change. "Police internal power structures and everyday 'canteen' cultures remain white, male, macho-dominant and hostile to radical overhaul."

He calls on Sir William to recommend a co-ordinated national action plan to stamp out racial harassment and violence. The inquiry "offers a unique chance to make a difference, not only with the Metropolitan Police and all its failings, but for all our institutions," he says.