Police 'must be totally intolerant' of internal racism: The Metropolitan Police Commissioner says the service has a pivotal role to play in combating racist behaviour, Terry Kirby reports

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The Independent Online
THE POLICE must be 'totally intolerant' of those who behave in a racist fashion both in society and within the service itself, Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said yesterday.

In his first major speech as commissioner, Mr Condon said the argument that there was some excuse for racist behaviour within the police because the service simply reflected the wider society was 'simply specious'.

Speaking to a conference on equal opportunities organised by the Metropolitan Police, Mr Condon said the service had a pivotal role to play in combating racist behaviour. 'This is an area where we must be totally intolerant; intolerant of racially motivated attacks, intolerant of those who indulge in racial abuse and intolerant of those who use hatred and violence as the tools of their political expression.

'We must be equally intolerant of our own colleagues who fail to reach the required standards. We demand exemplary conduct from those we employ. We hold a position of trust in society and it has the right to expect the very best conduct from us.'

Mr Condon said there were very few organisations which had subjected themselves to such vigorous self-examination. 'If the price of that openness is that we sometimes find ourselves exposed to apparently damaging publicity or legal processes, then so be it.'

He added: 'If that pain is part of what we must go through to improve, I am prepared to bear it.' Equality of opportunity was not just 'a bolt-on, optional extra' but a legal requirement; suggestions that organisations could 'take it or leave it' were unacceptable.

'We have a moral duty to set an example to the communities we serve, not only in the way we police them, but also in the way we conduct our own affairs. How will the public expect us to treat them if they gain the impression that we cannot even treat each other fairly?' he said.

The conference, attended by police officers, lawyers and bodies involved in race relations and equal opportunities, comes in the wake of research which showed that policewomen faced a high level of attacks from their male colleagues. An unpublished report by the Inspectorate of Constabularly is said to be highly critical of equal opportunities in a number of forces and warns that some senior police managers are resisting change, the conference was told.

In London, the Metropolitan Police, which suffers a high level of wastage of black and women recruits, is currently facing three actions for sexual discrimination - one of which includes allegations of racism - from policewomen. Mr Condon said there was still much to be done to reduce discrimination. Sexual harassment, he said, 'belongs in the dark ages'.

The conference also heard that the Metropolitan Police plans to extend domestic violence units in two parts of London to deal with homophobic violence following a spate of attacks and harassment. Four sub-divisions in the capital are also monitoring the problem.

(Photograph omitted)