In response to a survey by The Independent, which has major implications for the future of race relations in Britain, the chief constables of two forces, Sussex and West Yorkshire, accepted the existence of institutional racism, while pointing out that this did not mean all their officers were racist.
Many of the 10 forces that admitted having racist officers in their ranks said it was an inevitable consequence of recruitment from a society where racism was widespread.
The admissions follow the acceptance this week by David Wilmot, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, that institutional racism existed in his force. His comments to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry followed earlier evidence from Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in which he acknowledged the existence of racist officers in the Met, but repeatedly refused to accept that the force was institutionally racist.
The willingness of other police chiefs to acknowledge the degree of racism in the service will be welcomed by the many ethnic minority groups who have complained about the problem in evidence to the Lawrence inquiry.
Imran Khan, solicitor for the Lawrence family, said: "I am disappointed that it's only two but I welcome their comments. They have acknowledged the problem and they are going to move forward. If they and the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester can accept it, I cannot see how Sir Paul Condon can defend his position."
Paul Whitehouse, the Chief Constable of Sussex, told The Independent: "Yes, there is institutional racism within Sussex Police but that does not mean that Sussex Police is an inherently racist service."
Mr Whitehouse is regarded as one of the most enlightened senior officers and is chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers'(Acpo) personnel and training committee.
Lloyd Clarke, Deputy Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, said: "If `institutional racism' means unintentional prejudice, that such prejudice is subconscious almost subliminal, then I totally accept the concept." He said he would expand on his comments when he gives evidence to the Lawrence inquiry next Wednesday, but he did not accept a definition of institutional racism which meant that all police officers in the force were racist.
Among the many chief constables to accept that there were racist officers within their force, was John Newing, the Chief Constable of Derbyshire and president of Acpo. He said: "Despite the fact that we have a race- relations strategy in operation and have had for some years, I accept that the Derbyshire force, like other forces, has a problem of racism.
"There is sufficient evidence to justify this point of view in terms of stop/search and arrest rates. I also have evidence which indicates that there are officers who are overtly racist."
Some chiefs, including Perry Nove, Commissioner of the City of London Police, acknowledged the damage that a small number of racist officers could do. He said: "In an organisation with 1,200 staff there is an inevitability that some individuals will hold racist views and that such views will always have significant potential to affect both service delivery and the organisation internally."
Several chief constables expressed the view that racist officers had adopted their prejudices before joining the service and that more needed to be done to identify them at recruitment stage. William Spence, of Tayside Police, said: "Some may slip through the net and we then have some - I believe and earnestly hope few - individuals whose attitudes are not acceptable." Colin Phillips, Chief Constable of Cumbria, added: "The police service reflects society and to that extent this force will contain officers who have racist attitudes."
Merseyside Police said the police service was incapable of solving the problem alone. It said: "Deep-seated attitudes, which have been prevalent in society for generations, cannot be eradicated overnight. It is a problem for society at large as well as the police service."
Other forces that accepted the existence of racist officers in their ranks were Humberside, Northumbria, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire and Durham.
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