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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June 2004, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Police 'guilty of stealth racism'
Police recruits
Police forces are failing to curb racism, the CRE says
An investigation into the police has unearthed "stealth racism" in the training of new officers, the Commission for Racial Equality says.

The probe found forces failing to meet minimum standards on race equality, despite laws compelling them to do so.

The CRE is warning 14 unnamed forces they have 90 days to comply with race relations law or face legal action.

The probe followed the BBC's 2003 documentary The Secret Policeman on racism among police recruits.

'Sins of Lawrence'

Heading the report, former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir David Calvert-Smith said racism was still a major problem in the police and that his team had found failings at "every level":

We are entering a zone of zero tolerance. All people have to do is obey the law
Trevor Phillips
CRE chairman

"Any thoughts that follow in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that this problem had somehow gone away are wholly wrong.

"An enormous amount of resources have gone into programmes on race and diversity, and it has not been anywhere near as successful as people had hoped."

He said there may be a case for creating a system of undercover officers working within the police to root out racism.

According to the CRE's interim report, more than 90% of police race equality schemes fail to meet the minimum legal requirements.

'Overt prejudice'

Forces had new duties to take potential race issues into account in recruitment, but screening procedures were falling short, it said.

'Stealth racism' of officers who know how to avoid breaking the law.
Isolated on training exercises
Ignorance of anti-discrimination awareness
Feeling that race issues not taken seriously

Ironically, applicants from some minority communities were more likely to fail an initial screening for their views on race and diversity than a white applicant.

Evidence into probationary training found complaints ranging from almost exclusively white tutors with superficial knowledge of race relations through to overt demonstrations of prejudice.

One recruit told investigators he had experienced "stealth racism", something he described as prejudice from an officer who knew how to avoid breaking the law.

Another Asian Muslim recruit said curry had been smeared on his bedroom door in the training centre.

There are many members of these communities with the skills and talent needed for a 21st century force
Ravi Chand, Black Police Association


A police trainee admitted having no knowledge of anti-discrimination legislation. Another had not heard of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

The service was heavily dominated by a macho "bar culture" which excluded recruits from minority communities who did not drink, the report said.

CRE chairman Trevor Phillips said: "We are entering a zone of zero tolerance - the time for chat is over.

"All that people have to do is obey the law."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "Apart from clear and unacceptable racial differences in the screening process, it is frankly astonishing that so many people are failing the basic diversity test.

"Either huge numbers of racists were getting through before screening was introduced, or the screening process itself is seriously flawed."

But Ravi Chand, former head of the Black Police Association and a member of the investigation team, urged members of minority communities not to give up on joining the police.

Interim report

"There are many members of these communities with the skills and talent needed for a 21st century force."

A Home Office spokeswoman said it would consider the report "carefully and positively".

"It is an interim report and we will give a fuller response when the full version becomes available early next year."

Your comments:

I used to be a Police Officer and throughout my entire training period I felt excluded and lonely because I didn't drink. My fellow trainees picked on or completely ignored me, just because I am not the type to go boozing every other night. There is most definitely a 'bar culture' within the job. I am also well spoken and found that this too made me stand out in a negative light. I am now in a civilian job which I love and have never since encountered any of the animosity which I experienced in the police.
Withheld, Devon

Firstly, the comment about macho 'bar' culture rings very true. Unfortunately, this has been a massive problem and continues to be one, not just in the Police but society as a whole whereby ethnic minority members who do not drink are often excluded from mainstream, predominantly white, social and vocational activities. Secondly, the Police, like employers across the board, still seem to employ ethnic minorities either because there are few or no suitable white applicants or on an 'Uncle Tom' basis.
Saj Ali, London

How many more forms of racism is there going to be? We've had "Institutionalised Racism" "Indirect Racism" and now racism by stealth. The world's gone PC crazy!
Ralph Scott, Basildon Essex

America had terrible problems with a racist police force in the 1950s and 1960s, but these were solved by large increases in the number of black police officers. The Met has been trying to increase the number of minority officers in London, but there is a view among applicants (justified in some cases) that senior police officers feel they are being forced to take 'inferior' candidates to please politicians and will only give lip-service to stamping out racism in the ranks.
Dave, London

Any person who is trained to dominate a situation, as are police officers, will have their own prejudices re-enforced and they will use that 'domination training' in almost every circumstance, even their personal lives (ever wondered why the divorce rate is so high amongst police officers?) This has been demonstrated in numerous experiments. Prejudice, unfortunately, is the norm in the human psyche but when that prejudice is re-enforced it becomes ever more powerful.
Alan (ex police officer), Salisbury, UK

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"This report makes dismal reading"

Police inquiry into racism reviewed
11 Dec 03 |  Manchester
New racism strategy for Met
14 Nov 03 |  London
Met Police still 'racist'
22 Apr 03 |  London

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