Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

Met is 'no longer racist' - Straw

Jack Straw on the Met Police - courtesy of The Politics Show London

The Metropolitan Police is no longer institutionally racist, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said.

His comments came in an interview marking the 10th anniversary of the Macpherson report, published after the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence.

It heavily criticised the approach and attitude of the force.

Mr Straw told the BBC: "If you are asking me whether I believe the Met as a whole is still institutionally racist, the answer is no."

But he admitted there may still be "pockets" of racism in the force.

"If you ask me, do I believe that it's perfect as an institution and that black and Asian people, and indeed women, have the same opportunities in practice as white males, I think the answer is - probably not in some areas," Mr Straw said on the Politics Show.

"There may still be pockets of institutional racism."

'Got worse'

Stephen Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death in Eltham, south-east London, in a racist attack by a gang of white youths. No-one has ever been convicted of the murder

The Macpherson Report blamed "a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership" for mistakes in the investigation of the crime.

A conference is being held on Tuesday to mark the report's anniversary, to be attended by Stephen's mother Doreen, Mr Straw and Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson.

Commander Ali Desai on Jack Straw's comments

Organised by the National Police Improvement Agency, the event will examine what progress has been made over the past decade.

But Commander Ali Desai, President of the National Black Police Association, said the situation had actually got worse.

He is currently suspended from duty following allegations of misconduct and is suing the Metropolitan Police for racial and religious discrimination.

"We have not got rid of institutional racism and the reason is very simple - there has been lack of leadership and lack of grip, I think within the force and in particular within the police authorities," he said.

"Institutional racism, particularly in the way we deal with our own staff, is still there and it actually got worse."

But in January the UK's equalities chief, Trevor Phillips, said the accusation of institutionalised racism was no longer appropriate.

The Politics Show is broadcast on BBC1 on Sunday 23 February at 1200 GMT.

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