One dark secret to another: Can the Met go any lower?

Promises deliver little as institutional racism lives on


I hope the bosses of London’s Metropolitan Police Service don’t go all defensive about this column or distrust my motives. Some of them have tried (though failed) to eradicate the virus of pervasive police racism. A few took me to good lunches and provided me with extra security when I faced some frightening physical threats. So I owe them and would not malign either individuals or the force without good reason.

But having been an anti-racist activist all my adult life, I also know stories, dark secrets of black and Asian people failed or picked for special ill-treatment by Met officers, high and low. From time to time these dank truths emerge, and the public is shocked. When will the police do more than pretend they understand and care? Their old statements of intent and good policies, just sheets of decorative wallpaper, are now frayed and fading. And, dishearteningly, contemporary promises and practices have not delivered.

This is in no way special pleading. White people are also victims of police malevolence and of hate crimes, and too often feel further punished by the criminal justice system. However, police officers rarely harbour generic prejudices against white UK nationals – though some, admittedly, do seem to loathe the Irish. The time does seem right to look again at the Met and race, since the media interviews with the ex-undercover Met cop Peter Francis, who alleged the police spied on and tried to discredit the Lawrence family and friends, Duwayne Brooks, in whose arms Stephen died, anti-racist groups and organisations monitoring racist attacks. If this is true one wonders how low can an institution get?

Predictably, the Met leadership, Home Secretary, Mayor Boris, all and sundry, have come out with their well-rehearsed platitudes of disapproval – yes, the same Boris who, with William Hague and others, pronounced the Macpherson inquiry an iniquitous “witch-hunt” of the noble constabulary. Some of us knew better.

I was there protesting, in 1983, with the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, outside Stoke Newington police station where a black man, Colin Roach, 21, died of bullet wounds. I remember Cherry Groce, mother of eight, shot and paralysed in 1985 by police in her home in Brixton; and Cynthia Jarrett who died of a heart attack when police raided her home in Tottenham. Riots erupted and poor PC Blakelock was cruelly slain. Three innocent black men were convicted of the senseless murder and later freed. History repeated itself when Mark Duggan, black and young, was shot dead in Tottenham in 2011, setting off the last urban riots. In 1993, I wrote about Joy Gardner, taped up and restrained in front of her young son, when being arrested by immigration police. She collapsed and died four days later. There have been many others. None of the policemen or women were held to account. Most disturbing of all was watching Paul Condon at the Macpherson inquiry – his curled contempt when giving evidence.

You see, I knew of Condon in a previous incarnation. My friend Frank Crichlow, a popular Trinidadian activist in Notting Hill Gate, ran the Mangrove, a community music club and restaurant. In 1988, officers answerable to Condon – then Deputy Commissioner for west London – raided the Mangrove. Pictures were taken of illegal drugs which were believed to have been planted by the law enforcers. The subsequent case against Crichlow was thrown out. He was awarded record damages of £50,000 but he was never himself again. Condon, though, went on to run the Met. He now sits in the Lords and denies knowledge of any of these incidents.

Discrimination against officers of colour continues in our police forces; too many citizens of colour still suffer racist violence and abuse. I see a link between the two. The Independent recently interviewed Kevin Maxwell, the mixed-race, gay Met officer who said he resigned after being intimidated by his seniors because he spoke up about some of his colleagues’ racist and homophobic behaviour . An employment tribunal upheld 44 counts of harassment. Not that long ago, Gurpal Virdi, a Sikh Detective Sergeant, won his case of discrimination and then took another case to tribunal two years later. Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the highest-serving Muslim in the Met, left and alleged discrimination. Several members of the National Black Police Association have made similar complaints, some publicly, others privately to me.

The Lawrences want another inquiry; not, in my view, a wise call. Inquiries are the perfect British answer to contentious events: they go on and on, people forget, the high emotions that led to them are dissipated. (Do you remember there is a Chilcot Iraq inquiry still to report?)

What we need instead is perhaps a judge gathering all the evidence already in the public domain of police collusion with, or indifference to, racist attacks; complaints made by black and Asian coppers; undercover operations against families and groups seeking justice; and those in charge when some of the worst cases surfaced. It should cover the period from the Eighties to now, be produced fast and in clear, unambiguous language. And then a parliamentary committee should summon the Met leadership to ask why, what and when, with future meetings scheduled in to make sure the force is operating fairly, effectively and with integrity. It can be done. And must be done, for the sake of policing and the people of London. 


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea