The Lawrence inquiry: Met launch flurry of new anti-racist initiatives

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A POLICE "charm" offensive to counter the damning criticism contained in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry is in full swing.

As critics of the Metropolitan Police line up to accuse the Commissioner and his officers of racism and incompetence, Scotland Yard, and the wider police service, have been taking pre-emptive action.

A major advertising campaign on radio stations in London and in the local and ethnic minority press has been launched to emphasise the new priority the Met gives to race crimes. It calls on victims of racism who have previously not reported attacks to contact the police, promising that their case will be treated seriously. A poster campaign in the Underground and on buses is also planned.

In the past few months the newly formed Racial and Violent Crime Task Force has also been drawing up a comprehensive anti racism strategy, called Operation Spectrum, which is expected to be launched on the same day as the Lawrence inquiry report by Sir William Macpherson.

The strategy, subtitled "Menu of Strategic and Tactical Options for Combating Race/Hate Crime", lists dozens of tough new initiatives and emphasises a "can do" approach to racism. It also details covert techniques in dealing with suspected racist officers, including using black under cover detectives to gain evidence.

The head of the unit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, has also been holding a series of briefings with journalists - including The Independent - to explain what the force has been doing and plans to do to counter racism.

Sir Paul Condon, the Commissioner, has also carried out a series of interviews.

Ten days ago the Yard held a press "open day" at the force's training school in Hendon, north London, where journalists were able to interview five recruits from ethnic minorities chosen by the Met. They reported a positive picture of being in the police service. A police spokeswoman said: "It was a response to a number of inquiries about what training is like, what new recruits to the Met go through."

All photographs and interviews taken on the day were embargoed until the publication of the report by Sir William. In the past few weeks the Yard has been working over-time to gather together evidence to show that they have learnt from the incompetence and cover up that surrounded the initial investigations into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

A press conference with Sir Paul is planned for Wednesday afternoon following the report's publication. As well as giving reaction they also plan to release figures showing the number of recruits ejected before the end of their training because they had racist attitudes.

All the police associations - the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Superintendents' Association, and the Police Federation - have also prepared either press conferences or briefing papers to coincide with the inquiry's publication.