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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK


Police are racist - chief

The chief constable of Greater Manchester has said that racism is institutionalised within his force.

Chief Constable David Wilmott: Officers are trying to tackle the problem
The admission by David Wilmott constrasts sharply with the denial recently by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon that racism was present throughout his force.

Mr Wilmott, who heads England's second-largest police force, told the Stephen Lawrence inquiry racism permeated every level of society - and the police were no exception.

He added that the problem could only be dealt with by first admitting it existed.

The inquiry into the murder of the black teenager moved to Manchester for one day to hear how racially motivated crimes are investigated in the north west.

Stephen Lawrence's father Neville urged Sir Paul to take note of Mr Wilmott's words.

Reeta Chakrabarti: David Wilmott's remarks were welcomed by Stephen Lawrence's father
The teenager's father had been disappointed by Sir Paul's refusal to acknowledge the existence of institutionalised racism in his force when he gave evidence to the inquiry two weeks earlier.

Mr Lawrence said: "I think Paul Condon should take a leaf out of his (Mr Wilmott's) book, if he's admitting it and he's serious.

"Positive action needs to be taken to promote black senior officers. By doing so he'll show that he's serious."

'Racism exists'

"Institutionalised racism exists in Greater Manchester Police. There is a range of issues that you could say are racist," Mr Wilmott said at the inquiry.

"It goes from the absolute overt racism, verbal abuse, physical abuse to aggressive and antagonistic acts which filter down to individual actions which affect the way you deal with individuals in a situation."

[ image: Stephen Lawrence:
Stephen Lawrence: "Seriously flawed" investigation into his murder
The inquiry aims to gather "positive recommendations" from the regions for the future prosecution of racially motivated crimes.

A hearing will be held in Bradford on 21 October and Bristol on 3 November.

Race relations organisations, victim support groups, probation services and police in each area will give evidence to chairman Sir William Macpherson and his three advisers on how they tackle race crime.

Joshua Rozenberg on David Wilmott's comments
Mr Wilmott argued that society in general is inherently racist and that the police was no exception.

But he said that Stephen's murder would have been treated with the utmost seriousness if it had happened in Manchester.

[ image: Sir William Macpherson: Learning from the regions]
Sir William Macpherson: Learning from the regions
"A racist murder in our community would be seen as such, investigated as such and the family would be kept closely informed," he said.

Stephen, 18, was stabbed and left to die by white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, on 22 April 1993. Police believe the crime had a racial motive.

Five local youths were arrested, but none was convicted. A subsequent private prosecution of three of the youths collapsed.

An inquiry into events surrounding Stephen's murder was called after it emerged that there were serious errors in the police investigation.

[ image: Private prosecutions against five suspects collapsed]
Private prosecutions against five suspects collapsed
Mr Wilmott added that although confidence in the police had been damaged by the Stephen Lawrence case, the force had learnt from it.

Sir William has stressed that this stage of the inquiry is not intended to establish the current state of the relationship between the police and ethnic minorities.

He said its purpose was to come up with "constructive" recommendations for the investigation and prosecution of racially-motivated crime in the UK.

Sir William's report is due to be received by the Home Secretary in December and will probably be made public in the new year.

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