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

Promises deliver little as institutional racism lives on

Share

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: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Separate lives: Boston’s streets illustrate the divide between the town’s communities  

Migrants have far more to offer than hard work and wealth creation, yet too many exist in isolation from the rest of society

Emily Dugan
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 40 million copies  

Go Set a Watchman: Harper Lee’s new novel is more than just a literary event

Joseph Charlton
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'