Police 'too positive' on race relations

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AVON AND Somerset Police was criticised yesterday for painting a misleadingly rosy picture of community relations in its evidence to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

Officers based in inner-city Bristol told the inquiry team that police had made great strides towards regaining the confidence of black and Asian residents in neighbourhoods such as St Paul's, scene of two riots in the 1980s.

But Peter Courtier, director of the Bristol Race Equality Council, told Sir William Macpherson, chairman of the inquiry: "You are only hearing from one police district. We don't believe that it reflects the face of the constabulary as a whole."

Superintendent David Warren, commander of Central Bristol District, told the public meeting in Bristol - the latest in a series held by the inquiry around the country - that relations between police and minority ethnic communities had been transformed over the past two decades.

Anti-police riots in St Paul's in 1980 were the first of a series that erupted around the country. By 1990, the neighbourhood had become a virtual no-go area for police and 2 per cent of all the violent robberies in the country were carried out in two streets there.

Supt Warren said a new style of community-based policing introduced in the 1990s had been accompanied by a drop in crime.