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Sunday, June 6, 1999 Published at 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK


'Daft' ethnic phrase too PC for PCs

Metropolitan police officers are being asked to use the new phrase

Metropolitan police officers are being asked to refer to black and Asian communities as "visibly minority ethnic groups" as part of a strategy to rid the force of racism.

Metropolitan Police federation chairman Glen Smyth: Language is part of tackling racism
But the move has been condemned by civil rights groups and plain English campaigners as confusing, cynical and daft.

The expression is being suggested to officers in a campaign to make the force more sensitive to race issues in the wake of criticism in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

Officers will be asked to use the phrase at a series of race relation seminars in Lambeth.

Eventually, all 28,000 Metropolitan officers will attend the seminars.

Language 'not the issue'

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "When referring to groups of black, Caribbean and Asian people, or a mixture of people from both groups, an individual may feel it is more appropriate to employ the term "visibly minority ethnic groups".

The Metropolitan force was branded "institutionally racist" by the inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, and has been embarking on a campaign to rebuild its relationship with London's ethnic minorities.

London-based civil rights group Movement for Justice criticised the force's latest move in that campaign.

Chairman Alex Owolade said: "The real issue for us is not the names or the terminology, it's the way the police handle areas such as stop and search.

"The Police Federation recently said stop and search figures have gone down because of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and implied a relationship between the rise in street crime and black people.


"For them to come up now with a term like this is just cynicism."

A spokesman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "We have not insisted that anybody should change their language - the language is up to them and different organisations will say these things in different ways.

"The only thing is that they should not be offensive to people."

The Plain English Campaign described the new term as "daft", saying it made no sense linguistically.

The Metropolitan Police is believed to have decided on the term because "visibly" differentiates black and Asian minorities from, for instance, the Irish minority.

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