Podium: We need a new form of policing for our multi-ethnic society

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The publication on 24 February 1999 of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report was hailed as a defining moment in police relations with Black and minority ethnic groups. It highlighted the ways in which the criminal justice system had repeatedly let down the Lawrence family through "collective failure" of the murder investigation and "institutional racism".

The report's recommendations sought improved openness and accountability across the criminal justice system and focused the police and other law enforcement practitioners on tackling institutional racism. A decade later, the Runnymede Trust has sought, in The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On: A Critical Review of the Literature, to document the extent of progress in meeting the recommendations of the Inquiry.

There are some indications of positive change, most notably in the way that the Crown Prosecution Service takes cases involving racist motivation more seriously. However, there remain many ways in which the relationship between police and Black and minority ethnic groups has not changed significantly from 10 years ago.

This is evident in terms of the challenges faced by Black and minority ethnic police officers and staff and, in a chilling echo of the "sus" laws of the 1970s, the continued over-representation of Black people among the figures on stop and search.

To move forward, it is crucial that we create a new form of policing for our multi-ethnic society. In this way, the legacy of Stephen Lawrence and the lessons learned through the Inquiry can remain as significant to the young people of today as to older generations.

This means understanding and engaging with issues of racism, identity and justice in a way that not only focuses on Black and minority ethnic groups. We need strategies to address their needs, but also to seriously challenge the taken-for-granted practices and procedures of organisations built to serve the less diverse communities of a bygone age.

This is the Foreword to the 'The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years on', to be published next Monday by the Runnymede Trust, of which Dr Richard Stone is vice chair. He is also a former panel member of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry