Racism endemic in Met, says Lawrence inquiry adviser


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The Independent Online

Blame for routine racism within the police rests with senior officers and is far more endemic than Scotland Yard is willing to admit, a former member of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry panel said yesterday.

Dr Richard Stone's condemnation, in an open letter to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, was echoed by senior figures yesterday as the Metropolitan Police found itself in an embarrassing row over racism more than a decade after it promised to clean up its act.

"Here we are 14 years later with the worst kind of blatant and violent racism by police. Even worse is that the officers appear to be doing it openly in front of colleagues from whom they have no fear of being reported," said Dr Stone.

"Such a group of constables could not be routinely racist like this without their seniors being aware, and telling them to stop. I fear this may alas be more than 'just a few bad apples'."

Dr Stone was among a number of high-profile critics to come forward yesterday after it emerged that 10 cases of racism, involving 18 police officers and one member of staff, had been passed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. To date, eight police officers and one civilian worker have been suspended.

It emerged last night that Brian Paddick, the London Mayoral candidate, wrote a secret report in 2004 while a serving senior Met officer warning the force that it needed to take tougher action against racism or risk a breakdown in relations with ethnic minorities.

Superintendent Leroy Logan, of the Black Police Association, said repeated warnings of racism in the force over 10 years had been ignored. "Every year since 2001, the young people have been saying how they believe they are being dealt with disrespectfully, and casual racist comments were being used," he said. "We were telling the Met Police, some two or three commissioners back, this is what is coming up. But like so many things, it lands on deaf ears."

Lee Jasper, chair of London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium, warned that the relationship between the black community and the police was at "crisis point". He said: "Such an acute failure to both appreciate and understand the fraught history of relations of black communities and accept the reality of institutional racism within the service is an error of catastrophic proportions."

In his letter to the commissioner, Dr Stone welcomed Mr Hogan-Howe's "condemnation of blatant racism", adding: "You have made a good start by telling everyone under you just to stop it. It is only sustained leadership that can effect real change."

Since 2005, there have been 2,584 complaints of racism against Met officers as well as 136 reported by their own colleagues. Of those, 42 were substantiated and two officers were sacked.

Additional reporting by Raziye Akkoc

Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

“I think we have to wait and see but this looks very depressing. It is sad that in 2012 police don’t show all citizens the same respect. In the lower ranks, it appears there’s still a lot of canteen culture. And 20 years on from Stephen Lawrence, it is sad that we’re still hearing very serious cases.”

Cllr. Crada Onuegbu - Cabinet Member for Youth, Lewisham Council (formerly Cabinet Member for Community Safety, 9 years)

“What I will say is that things have moved on a great deal since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, with the implementation of Macpherson’s report, so I am quite surprised to hear what has been made known to us. The new commissioner, I know, is very determined – if that is the case he’s very determined to root out such practices, because they don’t really help anyone.”

 “Any sort of racist victimisation – of course, we don’t know the full facts at the moment, but it is something that the police will take very seriously.”

“This is quite an exception, I wouldn’t think that such a thing would happen in this day and age, if it is proven to be correct...it should be stamped out of the police force.”

Lee Jasper, Chair of London Race & Criminal Justice Consortium & Co Chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts ( BARAC)

“In the last four years in London stop and search rates have increased by over 300%. Deaths in custody rates have increased by 100% and suspicious deaths of black men by 120%. There are less black senior officers today than there were in 2007. Add to this the phone hacking scandal, the Mark Duggan killing and the shooting of George Asare and the allegations that the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence was derailed by a corrupt officer; and the whole issue of the riots and any fool can see why things as bad as they are.

“As a direct result of the political failure of the mayor to acknowledge the existence of the culture of institutional racism these issues are all treated as "isolated incidents" instead of systemic failures. These latest cases of police racism give testimony to that failure. As a result the relationship between black communities and the Metropolitan Police Service is at crisis point. Not content with destroying the Macperson legacy this Mayor is drastically cutting the finding to the borough Police Consultative Group's that were created after the 1980s disturbances as recommended by Lord Scarman. It is beyond belief that so much damage could have been done in four years.

“Such an acute failure to both appreciate and understand the fraught history of relations of black communities and accept the reality of institutional racism within the service is an error of catastrophic proportions.

“There has to be acknowledgement that institutional racism is the central issue. We need a Parliamentary scrutiny on this issue as recently called for by the National Black Police Association. In addition we need the new incoming mayor to commit to supporting the call on Government for a public inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody as called for by the victims support group, the United Friends and Family Campaign. If they refuse the mayor should hold a London inquiry. 

“The new mayor must re-establishing all the race equality policy boards and public consultative forums that were are all abolished when Boris Johnson took control of the MPS and abolished the Metropolitan Police Authority. We need to an urgent and robust policing plan that targets racism and disproportionality with clear targets.“

Janet Daby, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Lewisham Council

“Racism can not be tolerated and this is an issue I take very seriously. The recent complaints, police suspensions and racism inquiry suggests that there are serious issues with racist behaviour by some police officers in the police force. People including me look to the police force to keep members of the public and their property safe. In many instances this is done well and does need to be celebrated. However, when a person is treated differently, discriminated against due to their colour of skin or culture then this is a serious issue. This not only affects the person in question, but their family, the wider community around them, and how we are viewed as a multicultural nation.”

“I believe the Metropolitan Police when they say there is no place for racism in the service. The police do not wish to be seen as racist or hold racist views. In my view there are elements of the 1999 Macpherson Inquiry report that are very relevant today. It makes reference to the fact that not everyone in the force is racist, and suggests a need to look at leadership and management.”

“Eliminating racism and prejudicial views is an ongoing process. The Macpherson Inquiry report also states that it is a matter for the police to train and educate and select the right people so that these incidents do not occur. I concur with this view. Geniune and sincere action needs to take place to train and select the right people into the police force. This is an ongoing process that will bring about positive change for all people. The profiling of criminals also needs to be reviewed to prevent the perpetual cycle of Black men being viewed as criminals.”

Interviews by Raziye Akkoc, Laurence Dodds and Aaron Lee