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Friday, September 25, 1998 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK


Black officers tell of police racism

Stephen Lawrence was stabbed by a gang of white youths

Black Metropolitan Police officers say the police should "name and shame" senior officers who are not prepared to act against racism.

Senior members of the Black Police Association (BPA) were giving evidence to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

They said the service needs to stamp out what it called a "canteen culture" of racial stereotypes and banter.

Inspectors Paul Wilson and Leroy Logan, and civilian Bevan Powell, were speaking at the public inquiry into the unsolved racist murder of the teenage student in south east London in 1993.

Their association was formed in 1994 to try to tackle institutional racism and act as a support network for members.

Its three most senior figures share more than 45 years experience in the force.

Officers 'uneasy'

BPA chair, Insp Wilson said most police officers were not from multicultural backgrounds and the nature of their work reinforced any prejudice.

"Many police officers only meet black people in confrontational situations or when dealing with crimes such as stop and searches.

"So it is right to assume that their view of black people is shaped through these meetings, and given that there are very few black people within the organisation, it is all too easy for them to reach a negative view of black people."

[ image: Black police officers make up 3% of Met]
Black police officers make up 3% of Met
Insp Logan, the BPA's treasurer, said many officers are uneasy in the presence of black people, and gave direct experience.

"I remember I was sitting in the back of the car once and a police officer said to me, 'I wonder who you robbed to get that.'"

Of the Metropolitan Police service's 26,000 officers, just 750 are from ethnic minorities.

The hearing was told they are mostly in junior ranks and lack the influence to challenge negative policies.

Insp Wilson said the only way to attract more black recruits was to work from a "clean slate".

"Our recruitment schemes at present are second to none. However, once a black person becomes a member of that organisation it becomes apparent that they must conform to the norm. They must become a clone.

"If you do not do so, you will become very uncomfortable."

The BPA has criticised senior officers for not doing enough and previously refusing to admit that institutional racism exists.

Insp Wilson said now they had done so, the point needed to be driven home to middle management.

He believed those divisional commanders who did not provide evidence of support for anti-racist policies should be "named and shamed".

Racial crime under-reported

Later, the inquiry heard that the level of racial crime is almost certainly underestimated by officers who do not understand official guidelines.

The Crown Prosecution Service told the inquiry some officers believe they must find evidence of a racial motive when all that is needed is an allegation.

This meant the issue could not be properly addressed since statistics were known to be inaccurate.

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