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Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK


Police chief: I won't quit

Sir Paul is facing demands for his resignation

London's police chief Sir Paul Condon has said he will not resign over the failure of his officers to arrest the killers of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

But he acknowledged to the BBC the inquiry into the murder of the student has been a major setback for his force.

Reeta Chakrabarti: "He's put himself at loggerheads with the inquiry panel"
Earlier in the day, Chief Commissioner Sir Paul appeared for the first time before the Lawrence inquiry where he apologised to Stephen's parents.

He admitted there had been "failures" by his officers during their investigation into who killed Stephen.

But he denied the majority of his officers were racist - provoking calls of "resign" from the public gallery.

He later told BBC Radio 5 Live he had "great admiration" for the Lawrence family, and that he understood their "grief and anger".

Sir Paul Condon talks to BBC Radio 5 Live
He did accept that individual officers were racist. But he added: "I personally do not think that reflects the majority of good men and women on the force."

He added that he was striving to make the force more representative of the communities it served.

He said: "What we need is lots of police officers at all levels down from ethnic communities in London."

He said that since he had become commissioner in 1993 he had increased the number of police officers from ethnic communities by 50%, but he admitted that figure was "still not enough".

The BBC's Legal Affairs Correspondent Joshua Rozenberg: Sir Paul strongly refuted his force is racist
And he said that he thought it would be "cowardly" to "slink away" from the inquiry and resign.

Stephen, an 18-year-old A-level student, was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south London, in April 1993.

Although five teenagers were arrested over the killing, none was convicted.

Sir Paul's appearance was his first before the inquiry at the Elephant and Castle.

[ image: Demonstrators were kept away from Sir Paul]
Demonstrators were kept away from Sir Paul
About 40 protesters were waiting outside the building as he arrived. Inside, Stephen's parents Neville and Doreen sat just behind him.

The commissioner told the inquiry he "deeply regretted" that he had not brought the killers to justice.

He said: "I have always acknowledged that we have individual racists in the police service and set out my determination to deal with them."

Later, during questioning, he said: "I am not in denial. I am not using weasel words to dilute the impact or need for reform.

"But if you label my service as institutionally racist, then the average police officer and member of the public will assume a finding of conscious, wilful or deliberate action or inaction to the detriment of ethnic minority Londoners."

Inquiry chairman Sir William Macpherson said Mr and Mrs Lawrence had correctly "detected" almost immediately that officers were not properly fulfilling their duties following Stephen's death.

He added: " Assurances were repeatedly given to MPs and members of the public that the investigation had been properly handled.

[ image: Stephen was killed by a group of white youths]
Stephen was killed by a group of white youths
"I just wondered how that squared with your acceptance now that the investigation went badly wrong?"

Sir Paul pointed to the internal review of the murder investigation carried out by former Flying Squad chief Roderick Barker several months into the investigation, which cleared the force of any wrong-doing.

Earlier during the inquiry Sir William dismissed the review as "indefensible" and effectively labelled it a whitewash.

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