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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Britain's police faces new questions over race bias

Twenty years on from landmark race report, senior police admit they have to do more

The father of a black teenager whose murder led to Britain’s biggest police force being branded “institutionally racist” in a landmark report 20 years ago said senior officers needed to be held to account for their record in tackling prejudice.

Neville Lawrence has called for a new body to monitor how police investigate race-based crimes and to address the continued low numbers of black and minority ethnic officers in the service.

London’s Metropolitan Police said this week it would take one hundred years to build a force to adequately reflect the city’s ethnic mix without an acceleration in the recruitment of black and Asian officers.

Currently 14 per cent of officer are from ethnic minorities, compared with 40 per cent of London’s population. The proportion of ethnic officers reduces in the higher ranks of the force.

Mr Lawrence’s son, Stephen, 18, was murdered by a group of five white murderers as he waited for a bus in April 1993.

The London force has been dogged for years by accusations of racism and corruption after it took nearly 20 years to find two members of the gang guilty.

The murder – and the original bungled police investigation – led to a public inquiry held by retired judge Sir William Macpherson.

In his damning conclusion, he said the original investigation was married by a “combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers”.

His 1999 report called for 70 major reforms focused on the police but also pushed for anti-racism guidance for schools.

Mr Lawrence said: “When my son was murdered, I felt it was really important to help stop the mayhem by getting the recommendations in the Macpherson report implemented. But while it was mayhem then, it is actually worse now.

“The report was Stephen’s legacy, and crucial reform was brought in as a result. But that legacy is at risk as there is no steering group ensuring the report’s findings are carried out.

“Nobody is holding police forces to account, and I think it is really important that a group is formed again to carry out this work. The police could be paying lip service to the recommendations and we would never know.”

The dead teenager’s parents have become high-profile campaigners for anti-racism in the UK. Doreen Lawrence, the boy’s mother, sits in the upper house of parliament.

She told MPs earlier this month that she trusted only one officer, who secured the arrests of two of the killers, and she said he was made to retire when he did not want to.

The anniversary of the landmark report comes after 285 fatal knife attacks in England and Wales last year, the highest number since records began in 1946.

Cressida Dick, chief constable of the Metropolitan Police, said she did not find the term “institutional racism” a useful way to describe the modern-day service in London.

“Society must not stand still however, there is more to do to build further on Stephen’s legacy,” she told reporters this week. “The Met is not the same Met as 1999 – let alone the year that Stephen was killed in 1993.”

Updated: February 24, 2019 05:40 PM

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