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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2003, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Met Police still 'racist'
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence wanted to become an architect
The Metropolitan Police remains "institutionally racist" 10 years after the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the commander of Scotland Yard's anti-racist unit has said.

In an interview to mark the anniversary of the black teenager's death, Commander Cressida Dick, the head of the Met's diversity directorate, said the force was unlikely ever to be free of racism.

But she said major inroads had been made in improving the way the force tried to eradicate racism.

No-one has ever been convicted of murdering the 18-year-old who was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London.

A memorial ceremony for Stephen Lawrence was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square, in central London on Tuesday.

I think there has been a sea-change and we have changed dramatically
Commander Cressida Dick
"It's very difficult to imagine the situation where we will say we are no longer institutionally racist," the commander told the Independent newspaper.

The case has revealed widespread failings in the criminal justice system including weaknesses within the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in dealing with racial crimes.

The McPherson inquiry into the investigation of the death labelled the force "institutionally racist" when it reported in 1999.

The Race Relations Act was also amended and extended to the whole of the public sector.

I think lessons have been learnt
Laurence Ward, London, England

Parents' grief

Commander Dick told the paper: "The point about racism is it's about the structure of society and power differential and how institutions operate."

She said she did not believe there was an institution that could say "we are not racist".

But she added: "There has been a sea-change and we have changed dramatically."

The commander said the Met faced a challenge in meeting the Home Office target of having a quarter of its officers from visible ethnic minorities in 2007 and in addressing the disproportionate number of black and Asian people being stopped and searched.

In some respects we are beginning to become a little more complacent again
Doreen Lawrence

Black people remain eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, according to the Lawrence family's solicitor Imran Khan.

"We may have individual officers who have taken on board the recommendations from the Lawrence inquiry - but it has not produced a structural change," he told BBC News.

Racial equality campaigner Baroness Howells told BBC News the police were going through a "process of unlearning".

"Because Britain never had an apartheid system we never realised how deep the prejudices were," she said.

"With the strengthening of the Race Relations Act we have a remedy for people who continue to be prejudicial."

Stop and search

She said she was "waiting for the day to have the first officer sacked because of his racial prejudice".

"We haven't yet got to that stage. Racism is alive and well.

"It is actually quite easy to prove when you examine how people operate."

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said men were also more likely to be stopped and searched than women and younger people more likely than pensioners.

"You can only stop people who are on the streets," he told BBC News.

"They bear no relation to census or resident populations."

But Commission for Racial Equality chairman Trevor Phillips also called for change.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence
Stephen's parents have campaigned for justice

He was still being stopped and searched as a middle-aged black man, he told BBC News.

"It is absurd."

Commander Dick is expected to be among the congregation at the service in London.

Minister for Social Exclusion and Equality Barbara Roche, and the Bishop of Birmingham John Sentamu, who was on the panel of the Macpherson inquiry are expected to be among the speakers.

On Monday Home Office Minister Lord Falconer said the legal system could not hide from its failure to help bring Stephen's killers to justice.

Last week Stephen's mother Doreen Lawrence said she believed it would now take a "miracle" to bring her son's killers to justice.

She told the Guardian newspaper her main source of grief was his killers were still free to walk the streets.

The Lawrence family brought a private prosecution but the trial of three men collapsed after eyewitness evidence was ruled inadmissible.

An inquest jury returned a verdict in 1997 that the teenager had been "unlawfully killed in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five white youths".

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Senior officers say they have made huge progress, but admit they are not perfect"


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