An independent review chaired by one of the three men who oversaw the Stephen Lawrence inquiry a decade ago has concluded that the police remain institutionally racist.
Dr Richard Stone called the review’s findings “dispiriting” and said the police’s failure to address them would have serious repercussions on the streets of Britain’s inner cities. “If it’s not addressed, this will explode in their faces,” Stone said. “There’s a lot of resentment on the streets; there’s a lot of anger.”
Stone, along with Dr John Sentamu, now Archbishop of York, and Tom Cook, the former West Yorkshire police chief, was one of three advisers to Sir William Macpherson, who carried out the original inquiry. He said it was clear the police had made huge efforts at tackling the problem and that some quarters of the criminal justice system – such as the Crown Prosecution Service – had made significant improvements in dealing with race crime.
But Stone said the review suggested that in many areas – chiefly the continued and extensive use of stop-and-search powers and a failure to promote and retain black police officers – the mentality of rank-and-file officers had not altered. “There’s been a lot of effort, but no significant change,” Stone said. “To me that bears out the definition of institutional racism. It’s very worrying.”
The review, carried out by the Runnymede Trust, the equality and social justice organisation, contains a bleak assessment of police efforts to tackle racism over the last 10 years. The review claims: “There remain many ways in which the relationship between police and black and ethnic minority groups has not changed significantly from 10 years ago.”
The review’s findings, contained in a report, “The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On”, to be published later this month, are dismissive of police claims to have increased the number of black officers: “While much is made of the fact that the percentage of officers from these backgrounds has doubled between 1999 and 2008, in reality this is only from a relatively low starting point of 2% to approximately 4%. This is considerably below the national target (7%) set for the police service overall. At the end of 2008, almost half of the 43 forces in England and Wales had not reached the employment target for black and minority ethnic officers set by home secretary Jack Straw almost 10 years earlier.”
The review is also critical of the police’s ability to retain black and ethnic minority staff. “Research examining why officers left the service has indicated that those from black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to have been dismissed or required to resign compared with their white counterparts (8.5% and 1.7% respectively) or to have left following voluntary resignation (46.6% of leavers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and 25.9% of all leavers from white backgrounds.)”
“The police service has got to reflect the population it serves,” said Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust. “We are concerned the police not only aren’t recruiting enough but are failing to keep them once they are recruited.”