Police anti-racist initiative targets the 'foul-mouthed five-year-old'

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The Independent Online

Children aged five and under are to be targeted in a major police initiative to tackle racism and homophobia.

Children aged five and under are to be targeted in a major police initiative to tackle racism and homophobia.

Every officer in the country is to be provided with a guide to identifying "hate crime", which warns that children who are below school age are capable of giving racist abuse. The guide also states: "Unpalatable as it is, hate incidents are taking place in the primary school playgrounds every day."

The document - drawn up for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) - says police should "collate, share and analyse" information on the friends and relatives of the "foul-mouthed five-year-old" to identify the "corrupting influences" responsible for the racism. It says: "A principal focus for pre-emptive prevention should be on the young, on whom our hopes for the future rest. Those bringing up the young pass on the infection of racism, homophobia, and other group hatreds."

The document says officers should try to identify "perpetrator communities" including specific housing estates or "problem families" linked to racist or homophobic activity.

The Guide to Identifying and Combating Hate Crime was written for the ACPO by the Metropolitan Police's Racial and Violent Crime Task Force. It warns that it is no longer sufficient for a police officer to be "passively non-racist". "This is not enough," it states. "In a passively non-racist environment, racists can still thrive."

The concept of "colour-blind policing" - where officers aim to treat people the same, regardless of their ethnicity or sexuality - is described by the document as "flawed and unjust". Colour-blind policing, a principle which many older officers have attempted to follow throughout their careers, "fails to take account of the fact that different people have different reactions and different needs".

The guide, launched yesterday at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, south-east London, acknowledges that some minority groups regard police with great distrust. "They have had, within their collective experience, a number of hostile and prejudiced encounters with the police," it states. "As a result they view us at best as unsympathetic and at worst as actively racist and homophobic."

The guide also stresses the need for police to gain the co-operation of the families of victims of hate crimes. "Police must never view the victim's family as 'us and them'. Our thinking is us, together working towards a common goal."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, head of the Met task force, said the guide was not a "politically correct frolic" but was of "fundamental importance to society and police officers". Assistant Chief Constable Matt Baggott, of West Midlands Police, said the guide was a living document which was "both practical but also creative and innovative".