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Stephen Lawrence Friday, 19 February, 1999, 18:53 GMT
Profile: Sir Paul Condon
As a young officer, Sir Paul Condon was identified Commissioner material in a police magazine article predicting stars of the future.

Stephen Lawrence case: Timeline of events
By the age of 45 he was indeed the youngest ever Police Commissioner commanding 28,000 officers, 17,000 civilians and running a budget of 1.5bn.

But his term at the top has been described as "the most traumatic six years a Commissioner has faced" and morale within the force is said to be in tatters.

The former head of the Police Federation, Sergeant Mike Bennett has said Sir Paul's unwillingness to stand up for his staff throughout the Stephen Lawrence inquiry is largely to blame. Late last year he joined with the parents of Stephen Lawrence's in calling for Sir Paul to resign.

Instead, Sir Paul has launched the biggest crackdown corruption and racism in the Met in almost 30 years.

Fast track to the top

Made an inspector while still in his 20s, Paul Condon began a rapid rise through the senior ranks. He became Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Met before being appointed Chief Constable in Kent in 1989.

It was there his business-like approach to policing came to the fore. He launched a raft of reforms and came down heavily on corruption. His efforts inspired the then Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke to appoint him to the top job at Scotland Yard.

From the outset he treated crime-solving with business-like efficiency. He introduced a set of standards promising that emergency calls would be answered within 15 seconds and officers would arrive at urgent crime scenes within 12 minutes.

He announced a "new moral high ground" for the Met and expressed a determination to eliminate discrimination or prejudice within the force.

The Commissioner admitted that up to 250 Met officers were dishonest and, last December, unveiled his Corruption and Dishonesty Prevention Strategy which he described as "a crusade for me over the years."

The 'PC' PC

Sir Paul Condon
Business-like from the outset
His push for equal opportunities, and his hard-line on corruption quickly earned him the reputation as the PC (politically correct) PC. But officers have found his outspokenness as anything but PC.

"He has told the world we're fiddling pensions and sick leave - if that is going on it is his problem - a management problem. He has told the world that we have 250 corrupt officers yet he has done nothing to substantiate that," Mike Bennett said.

Gary Mason from the Police Review magazine says the Commissioner's approach has opened him to attack from both sides.

"The rank and file see him as too politically correct ... but from the outside he is seen as someone presiding over a racist police organisation," Mr Mason said.

The Lawrence Inquiry

There's no question that the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry has damaged the police severely. A public opinion poll released at the height of the inquiry last July revealed almost half London's population had lost faith in the Met.

To jeers from the public gallery at the Stephen Lawrence inquiry last October, Sir Paul apologised to the Lawrences for "failures" by his officers during the investigation, but denied that the majority of the Met was racist.

It is perhaps ironic that the Commissioner who was so determined to fight racism in the force has been called to step down over the evidence of racism that Lawrence inquiry exposed. But he is determined to stick to the job.

"I have thought many times about my responsibilities in relation to this case," he said after appearing at the inquiry.

"I honestly believe it would be the cowardly thing to slink away at this point, or at any point. My challenge is to face up to the challenge of racism."

That may not be the kind of message from the top that young officers might need to boost their flagging spirits.

But as the Commissioner himself said in January, the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report was always going to be painful for the police.

BBC News
Commissioner comments on racism in a 1993 BBC report
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