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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 05:18 GMT 06:18 UK
Lawrence criticism 'changed police'
A memorial plaque for Stephen Lawrence
Inquiry's findings of institutional racism were 'helpful'
A senior Metropolitan Police officer says the force has been transformed since being labelled as "institutionally racist".


There are very, very few racist officers around now

Cressida Dick

Commander Cressida Dick, head of the racial and violent crimes task force, said the term, applied by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, had radically changed the way the force carried out its investigations.

She told Radio 4's The World Tonight that she was still committed to bringing Lawrence's killers to justice.

She denied the file on the case of the black teenager murdered at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London in 1993 was "gathering dust".

Protesters outside Hannibal House, where five Lawrence murder suspects - none ever convicted - went to answer questions at the inquiry
The Lawrence case resulted in angry scenes
"It has been a massive investigation led by John Grieve until he handed over to me.

"It is not a case I can discuss in any detail at all at the moment.

"But suffice to say we have been and are determined to find who killed Stephen Lawrence," she said.

The file is currently being examined by the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on what further charges could be brought, Ms Dick confirmed.

The police handling of the Lawrence case was condemned by the inquiry team as racist and incompetent and real transcripts from the police investigation were even used in a dramatisation of the scandal.

But racism is no longer endemic in the police force, Ms Dick insisted, thanks in part to the report's damning conclusions.

'Very helpful'

"In my opinion, the concept of institutional racism has actually been very helpful for us.

"I don't think we understood it very well until the inquiry report came out, but subsequently it has served as a great trigger and given us the impetus to examine all our processes and to examine the outcomes of those processes and to ask some very hard questions.

"It's not just us asking hard questions, it's people in communities, it's our independent advisers, it's our Police Authority and the concept of institutional racism has been very important in transforming the way we do business."

Although the Met could not afford to be complacent, she said, it had "come a very long way".

'Rooted out'

Asked if there were still racist officers, she said: "I joined the Met in 1983 and racism was rife.

"There were very many racist officers and it was an extremely uncomfortable environment for many colleagues to work in.

"I think there are very, very few around now. It is extremely likely that if you have racist attitudes you will betray that in your behaviour and if you betray it in your behaviour you can be pretty sure one of your colleagues will report what has happened and you will be rooted out.

"Overall in 2002 I would be naive to say there isn't a racist officer, but I think there are very few."

See also:

11 Sep 02 | England
02 Feb 02 | England
03 Mar 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
16 May 00 | Politics
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