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Met Police ‘not free of racism or bias,’ commissioner admits as London mayor launches review of stop and search

Long way to go before black Londoners trust police, Sadiq Khan warns

Sam Hancock
Friday 13 November 2020 11:57 GMT
Athlete Bianca Williams to sue Met because of 'racist' stop and search incident

The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has acknowledged the force “is not free of discrimination, racism or bias” as London mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans for an urgent review of stop and search tactics disproportionately used on black people. 

Dame Dick said she rescognised trust in police was “still too low in some black communities, as is their trust in many other institutions”.

“I feel very sorry about that. It is something I have worked to change and I commit now to stepping up that work further."

Acknowledging that “actions are more important than words", she said the Met would look to recruit 40 per cent of its officers from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds by 2022.

“My top two operational priorities are reducing violence and increasing public confidence in the Met, particularly the confidence of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities," she said.

“Actions are more important than words and, as I have said before, we can do more and we will.”

She added: “The Met is not free of discrimination, racism or bias. I have always acknowledged that and do now again. In the Met we have zero tolerance of racism. My job is to continue to try to eliminate any such racism and discrimination, however it appears.”

Her statement came shortly after Mr Khan announced plans for" community scrutiny" of police tactics including stop and search, use of force and Tasers as part of action to  “improve black Londoners’ trust and confidence in our police service"

The mayor said he and the Metropolitan Police had also launched a 12-month pilot scheme to look at samples of traffic stops to identify disproportionality relating to ethnicity.

He has also written to prime minister Boris Johnson to request it be made statutory for the police to collect and publish data on ethnicity for all road traffic stops.

An “action plan” published by City Hall on Friday outlined the scale of discrimination and plans to tackle the problem.

Data recorded under the Road Traffic Act shows that black people are six times more likely to be stopped in their vehicles than white people. They are also four times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched in the street. 

Mr Khan said: “There is still a great amount of work to do to unpick the conscious and unconscious bias and systemic racism that still exists in our public institutions and our society as a whole. 

“It is essential that we listen and respond to the frustrations voiced by black communities about the racial and social injustice they see when they interact with our public institutions.”

He stressed that while the Met had made “significant and positive steps forward” since the widely disputed 1999 Macpherson Inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the subsequent failings in the police investigation, there was more work to be done. 

“A recurring and understandable question throughout our consultation for this action plan was whether institutional racism continues to exist in the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service.] This remains a deeply contentious point, with passionate arguments on both sides. Either way, the fact that this question is still being asked demonstrates how much more work needs to be done to ensure that the MPS has the trust and confidence of all black Londoners,” he said.  

The Met has faced a string of recent racial profiling accusations following a series of incidents being filmed and shared online.

In July, Dame Dick was forced to apologise to Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams and her Portugeuse athlete boyfriend Ricardo Dos Santos after they were dragged from their car and handcuffed by officers while their three-month-old son sat awake in the vehicle.

Five officers are being investigated for misconduct after Ms Williams and Mr Dos Santos were pulled over while travelling with their baby in west London.

City Hall’s action plan involves a review of body-warn footage to assess the use of stop-and-search tactics, and scrutiny of the supposed smell of cannabis being used as sole grounds for searches.

Dame Dick is also to re-introduce the requirement of London residency for most new recruits.

Lord Simon Woolley, founder of Operation Black Vote, said: “It’s clear that there is a long way to go to improve trust and confidence in the Met, and I want to believe that Black communities have been listened to and been involved in new measures that we all hope will bring about much needed change."

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