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Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 18:10 GMT


Painful reading for police

The federation says most members try to work without prejudice

Click here to read Sir William Macpherson's full report on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

National police groups have acknowledged the problem of institutional racism and pledged to "dismantle" discrimination in the light of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report.

The organisation representing police officers in England and Wales said the Macpherson report makes painful but persuasive reading.

But the Police Federation complains that members feel "battered, bruised and bewildered" by being blamed for a problem which is found across society.

Chairman Fred Broughton acknowledged the existence of "institutional racism" but contested the use of the term "collective failure", which implied the whole police service is racist.

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"I believe the majority of officers honestly endeavour to police without prejudice," he said.

"But systems have to be put in place to identify racism where is exists and ensure it does not flourish either openly or unwittingly."

The organisation said the report is a "defining moment in policing" and a watershed of opportunity to make real and lasting change.

"Ordinary officers in London and across the country are feeling bruised, battered and bewildered by the blame that is being laid at their door - blame that is shared by all sections of society.

Fred Broughton: "The reports is seriously damaging"
"We must all work in partnership to find solutions," he said.

"For our part we must look to the future and address our own agenda, structure and culture if we are to police with everyone's support."

'Opportunity not a threat'

The leader of the UK's chief police officers called the Macpherson conclusions an "opportunity not a threat".

John Newing, Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the report would give police forces a focus for reform.

But he added that changes were needed in society as a whole, not just in the police.

"The questions that have been raised by the inquiry are not simply about what kind of police service we want they are much wider than that," Mr Newing said.

"They are about what kind of society we want."

He said the report's new definition of institutional racism had brought clarity to an area that had damaged public confidence in the police.

"Sir William himself has acknowledged that blanket criticism of police service is unhelpful and unfair."

He added: "It's an opportunity we must grasp hold of if we want to ensure the murder of Stephen Lawrence is remembered as a turning point for the police service and the community at large."

'Dismantle institutional racism'

The Metropolitan Black Police Association also said the Macpherson report presented a new opportunity for the police to stamp out discrimination.

It welcomed Commissioner Sir Paul Condon's willingness to embrace the new definition of institutionalised racism.

Chairman Paul Wilson said the police can now "begin to dismantle and treat the source of institutional racism".

He said obvious changes would be to the disproportionate number of black people who were stopped and searched by officers.

He said: "Institutional racism is an organisational problem and not just the responsibility of police officers and as such every department ... within the Metropolitan Police service must recognise and deal with the challenges presented."

Regional reaction

There was a mixed reaction from the heads of the UK's police forces.

Lancashire's acting Assistant Chief Constable Mike Tonge said the force was already committed to equality but the circumstances of the Lawrence case had prompted them to look even closer at how they dealt with minority groups.

He said: "What we find is that we are still far from perfect, although Lancashire Constabulary has come a long way already."

The Chief Constable for Merseyside, Norman Bettison, said: "The findings of the Macpherson report will undoubtedly have wider implications throughout the whole police service.

"What Macpherson illustrates is that racism continues to be a blight on society as a whole. Institutions like the police service ought to be taking a lead in combating racism, not only within the organisation, but also addressing racism on the streets."

Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, George Hedges, said that lessons could be learned from the report.

He said: "The Macpherson report's findings provide an opportunity to look carefully at crime investigation and the way we treat people caught up in them."

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