Racism 'still at core of police service'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

More than five years after the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry, another major report has concluded that racism is still at the heart of the police service.

More than five years after the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry, another major report has concluded that racism is still at the heart of the police service.

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) inquiry found that police forces in England and Wales were still "frozen solid at the core" in their attempts to handle race issues.

The inquiry team largely blamed middle-management, such as desk sergeants, for "paying lip service" to anti-racism measures. The report calls for a new disciplinary offence of "racial misconduct", for which officers could be sacked.

The inquiry was launched in October 2003 in response to the undercover BBC documentary The Secret Policeman, which exposed devastating comments and images of extreme racism within the police. This included one recruit donning a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and praising Hitler. Ten officers resigned as a result.

Sir David Calvert-Smith, the former director of public prosecutions who led the CRE inquiry, commenting on his findings, said: "Willingness to change at the top is not translating into action lower down, particularly in middle-management where you find the ice in the heart of the police service."

He continued: "More than two decades on from Scarman [the report into the Brixton riots] and over five years since Macpherson [the Lawrence inquiry], we should be at a stage where real and measurable progress can be made on race equality without innocent black teenagers being murdered or BBC documentary makers infiltrating the [police] service.

"We welcome the improvements that have already been made ... but the fact remains that every time you drill down you find that ice, and unless more is done, it won't melt any time soon." The report, while acknowledging big improvements, made 125 recommendations to improve race relations and diversity in the police.

Sir David said: "We need to create a police service which is moving away from the old quasi-military style of police service in the 1940s to a much more community-based and community-focused service which sees itself not just as a crimefighting organisation - which it must continue to be - but also as an agency as part of the cement which binds a multi-cultural society together."

While opposing race quotas for recruitment - which is illegal - the CRE supports a proposal to allow the Metropolitan Police to recruit only Londoners which, because of the high proportion of ethnic minorities in the capital, would artificially boost numbers of non-whites.