Racism is new threat for police, complaints chief says

Racism has replaced corruption as the biggest threat to the integrity of the police, the new head of the police complaints commission said yesterday.

Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said the scourge of racism within the police was his greatest "concern" and that some chief constables needed to do more to "drive it out".

Mr Hardwick, 46, also attacked police disciplinary procedures as an "anachronistic", "quasi-military, Victorian system" in need of reform.

His comments, in an interview with The Independent, come as the commission, which replaces the Police Complaints Authority, is given sweeping new powers to carry out independent investigations into alleged police wrongdoing.

Mr Hardwick said the extreme racism uncovered among police recruits at a training centre in Cheshire by an undercover television reporter last October raised disturbing questions about the culture that still existed within elements of the service. In the documentary, The Secret Policeman, recruits were filmed praising Hitler and wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood, and one described the murder of Stephen Lawrence as "a good memory".

Mr Hardwick said: "On top of the list [of concern] is race. That was shown by all that came out of The Secret Policeman. There are big questions about why people like that thought the police service was going to be a comfortable place to work. What we would like to see is that complaints on these matters are dealt with properly.

"There are parallels in how the police have dealt with corruption in the past. If you go back a long time, there was almost a certain acceptance of a low level of corruption. Then it led to ... a really strong drive against major corruption.