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Focus: The man who traps racist colleagues

John Grieve, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner who heads Scotland Yard's new racist crime unit, has a Herculean task. He has to rescue the Metropolitan Police's tattered reputation as a force that takes racism seriously - and has to convince not just the public, but many of his colleagues, that "nicking racists" is a priority.

Chief among his weapons, said the head of the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force, was adapting a tactic he developed as chief of the Anti-Terrorist Branch. "In the same way we made the environment in London hostile for terrorists we want to extend that to racists," he explained.

Mr Grieve, who is not a stereotypical "copper" and who has books in his office that reflect his interests in philosophy, literature and the history of American Indians, predicts that a new form of accountability would be "forged" from the "fire" of the Lawrence inquiry. Officers who, for example, ignore incidents such as children urinating through letter boxes of homes of ethnic minority people, claiming they are "too difficult", will no longer be tolerated. One method of changing the canteen culture, Mr Grieve said, was to get officers more involved in the investigation of racism. He believes that forces them to discard "discriminatory and prejudicial thoughts".

The police service has a mountain to climb, though. A recent opinion poll found that one in four people believes that most police officers are racist.

But it was impossible, Mr Grieve said, for the police to tackle all aspects of racism. "We just can't do everything you want us to do." However, he believed that by taking a tough, uncompromising stance they could make a difference. "We can stop this graffiti and excrement. We can show people you will not only lose your season ticket for the football [if you are a racist] but you will lose your council flat."

The new anti-racist initiatives taken by the Met include random testing to check whether officers behave in a courteous and correct manner. An extra 180 detectives are being drafted in to work on murder investigations and new fast-response teams will deal with killings. Extra family liaison officers are to be trained.

Mr Grieve believes the aggressive "can do" approach is beginning to work. He said the greater concentration on race crimes had led to a three-fold increase in the amount of intelligence in that area. Since he took over in August more than 400 people have been charged with racially motivated crimes. Last July there were 62 charges, in November 141. Officers are now trained to record all potentially racist information, such as graffiti, which was ignored in the past.

The police will also carry out "sting" operations to catch race-hate criminals. Tactics include placing a plain-clothed Asian officer outside a football ground and arresting people who racially abuse him. Black officers will be used to trap racist colleagues.

Tackling racism within the police was "very difficult" and a gradual process, Mr Grieve said. But there were now 873 ethnic minority officers in the Met, compared with 613 when Sir Paul Condon became Commissioner.