Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Met told 'no excuses' on racism
Mr and Mrs Lawrence have accused the police of racism
The chairman of the inquiry into the investigation of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence has told the police to stop making excuses on racism.
The former High Court judge said the police should accept the black community's complaints.
"Some say it has damaged race relations. I hope very much that will not turn out to be the epitaph of this inquiry."
He hoped instead the investigation into the unsolved racist murder would mark a watershed in police relations.
No one has ever been convicted of the murder, and the inquiry has already heard evidence of alleged bungling and racism by officers.
Home Office expert Paul Pugh gave evidence as the investigation re-opened on Thursday after a two-month break.
He also conceded that the disproportionate number of arrests and searches of black youths was down to their colour.
According to Home Office statistics, 108 black people in every 1,000 have been arrested by the police.
But only 14 per 1,000 white people have suffered the same experience.
Home Office figures also show only 2% of serving police officers are from ethnic minorities, even though they make up nearly 6% of the population.
In London the disparity is even wider, with 3.3% of officers, compared with an overall population of 19.2%.
Sir William said the policy of "stop and search" had to be changed if relations were to be improved.
And he told Mr Pugh it was not just the police who could learn from the inquiry.
"It might be good for the Home Office and everybody else involved, to take on the perceptions of the black community and assume they are right rather than make excuses and assume they are wrong."
Sir William's comments are the strongest hint yet that his report is likely to be highly critical of the force.