It was dismissed by the Home Secretary on Sunday as a "stunt" rather than a real news story. But yesterday that so-called "stunt" was causing shock waves throughout the police service as it was forced to face up to yet another racism crisis.
To expose suspected racist behaviour Mark Daly, 28, an undercover reporter, spent seven months at the Bruche National Training Centre in Cheshire as one of 120 trainee police officers.
For a journalist seeking evidence of extremist attitudes within police ranks, and in particular among new recruits, the material could not have been more damning, and more disturbing. Hitler was praised, Stephen Lawrence's murderers were congratulated, and one recruit donned a Ku Klux Klan-style hood.
The reporter's findings, which were broadcast on Tuesday night on BBC1, revealed some of the most devastating comments and images of extreme racism to have been uncovered within the police in recent years.
Five of the recruits highlighted in the programme yesterday resigned and three others are suspended. Some may be charged with criminal offences for their extreme behaviour.
A deputy chief constable said he felt "ashamed to be a member of the British police service" after watching the documentary, The Secret Policeman. Another senior officer said he felt "physically sick" at the racist comments.
While refusing to back down on his earlier criticism of the BBC, David Blunkett described the extent of the racist behaviour revealed in the documentary as "horrendous".
The explicit language and extreme levels of racism are a substantial blow to the police service and undermine the progress they have made to shed the racism reputation highlighted by the 1999 inquiry into the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence.
It follows calls earlier this month by the National Black Police Association for would-be ethnic minority recruits to boycott the Metropolitan Police because of alleged discriminatory behaviour against non-white officers.
The effects of the BBC's revelations are bound to have a profound and lasting impact on the police's attempt to convince black and Asian people they are not institutionally racist.
Greater Manchester Police was chosen by the BBC for investigation because its then chief constable, David Wilmot, said in 1998 that the force was institutionally racist and that it would strive to eradicate such attitudes.
Mark Daly, a journalism graduate who moved to the BBC from the Daily Record, the Scottish tabloid, had been working with the Corporation's documentary department for about a year before he applied and was accepted on the police training course.
Fitted with a tiny pinhole camera that was used to secretly film through a hole in his protective vest the Glaswegian spent seven months in the company of 118 white and one Asian recruits.
In the worse case PC Rob Pulling, who later passed his training course and became a constable based in Rhyl, north Wales, was filmed wearing a home-made Ku Klux Klan-style hood, saying he would bury an Asian under a train track and that Hitler had the "right idea".
He threatened to beat up an Asian colleague. "He'll regret the day he was ever born a Paki," he said.
Stephen Lawrence had "deserved it" and that his murder was "a good memory", those who killed him should be given "diplomatic immunity", he added. He labelled Mr Lawrence's parents "a f****** pair of spongers".
The documentary also showed a recruit boasting about stopping an Asian motorist for a traffic offence and imposing a stiff penalty, but letting off white people for a similar offences.
The undercover reporter, who is to repay his £18,000 a year salary to the Manchester force, was eventually rumbled after police received a tip off about his identity. On 15 August he was arrested outside his flat in Stockport, Greater Manchester, as he was about to go on afternoon shift.
He was arrested on suspicion of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and damaging police property and was held in cells.
He was due to answer bail next month but following the revelations the police have strongly hinted that the reporter will not face charges.
PC Pulling resigned yesterday along with PCs Carl Jones, Tony Lewin and Adrian Harrison, of Greater Manchester Police and PC Steve Salkeld of the Cheshire force.
PCs Andy Hall and Andy Turley of Greater Manchester Police, and PC Keith Cheshire, of North Wales, have been suspended while a disciplinary inquiry goes ahead.
The sense of shock felt among Britain's senior police officers yesterday was genuine. They are appalled that these kind of attitudes still exist within the police and fear that the following publicity will undo much of their hard work to foster better race relations.
Clive Wolfendale, acting deputy chief constable of North Wales Police, said: "I felt physically sick as I watched 'The Secret Policeman' last night."
Richard Brunstrom, the force's chief constable, will be writing to the Lawrence family to apologise.
"It is frankly hard to imagine more despicable words," Mr Wolfendale said.
But Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, told Channel 4 News that she doubted things have greatly improved since her son was stabbed to death 10 years ago.
She said: "It was quite a shock to know that after all this time that people still hold those views. And new officers coming in ... were so blatant in the way they treat people, how they treat black and Asians [in comparison with] white people."
She added: "It's the type of recruits that are coming in. It's not the graduates that are coming in who are beginning to think and act differently, but it's the same type of police officers that came through in the early days where racism is ingrained."
Alan Green, the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said a full and thorough criminal investigation would be carried out into the allegations. He said: "It is fair to say the programme last night, which we had not seen previously, has really shocked, certainly, me. It has made me ashamed to be part of the British police service and it has saddened me greatly."
Before the documentary was shown, Mr Green had joined Mr Blunkett in criticising the BBC for not sharing information with them ahead of broadcast.
But yesterday he appeared to concede that it might have been necessary for a reporter to go undercover to reveal the extent of racist behaviour among officers.
Mr Blunkett said yesterday he did not regret attacking the BBC, but added: "I think what's been revealed is horrendous and we need to deal with it."
But Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, said Mr Blunkett was wrong to attack what had turned out to be a "very useful and important piece of BBC journalism".
He said: "It is pretty clear, alas, that something has to be done to check not only during recruitment but after it, that this sort of thing is not going on.
"I think what this shows is that despite the alarming state of affairs revealed by the ghastly Stephen Lawrence episode, not enough has been done."
The fallout from the programme began yesterday as it was announced that the Police Complaints Authority is to supervise an investigation into the whole case and may include wider implications highlighted by the documentary.
The Commission for Racial Equality is to write to every police force in England and Wales to ask chief constables to outline what action they are taking to prevent racists from joining the ranks.
Meanwhile the Home Office wants all police forces to use new integrity tests to weed out racist applicants to the police. So far 15 of the 43 police forces have introduced the screening process.
BLUE ON BLACK
PC Rob Pulling, of North Wales Police
"A dog born in a barn is still a dog; a Paki born in Britain is still a fucking Paki."
"Isn't it good how good memories don't fade? He [Stephen Lawrence] fucking deserved it and his mum and dad are a fucking pair of spongers."
PC Andy Hall, of Greater Manchester Police
"He's a Paki and I'm stopping him 'cos I'm fucking English."
"We should have armed guards like on that Calais fucking crossing ... with guns and any cunt tries to get over fucking shoot them."
PC Adrian Harrison, of GMP
"I class them as one thing and that's it, Pakis."
PC Carl Jones, of GMP
"To be honest I don't mind blacks, proper blacks. It's just Pakis, they claim everything."
PC Tony Lewin, of GMP
"I'll admit it, I'm a racist bastard. I don't mind blacks. I don't mind black people. Asians? No."
PC Keith Cheshire, of North Wales Police
"Anybody of an Indian nature, straight away you'd just call them a Paki wouldn't you?"Reuse content