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BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"Today's report says the training of police officers in race relations issues is progressing, but slowly"
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BBC Scotland's Joanne Macauley reports
"The justice system has been under-fire since the murder of Asian waiter Surjit Chhokar"
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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 14:57 GMT
Police given mixed report on racism
Chhokar campaign
The family of Surjit Chhokar want more action
The absence of a standard recording system among police forces could be contributing to the lack of a "credible" picture of race crime in Scotland, according to a report.

The report has revealed how forces do not routinely gather information on the ethnic origin of people they come into contact with as victims, witnesses or offenders.

The information has, however, been collected when incidents have been classed as "racist", or where complaints have been made against the police.

The report, by William Taylor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, called for a standard system of recording the ethnic origin of victims and offenders.

'Unwitting racism'

Mr Taylor's report into police race relations in Scotland painted a mixed picture. The "genuine commitment" of chief constables was praised, but concerns were raised about some forces.

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence was murdered in south London
At Thursday's report launch, in Edinburgh, Mr Taylor could not comment on the question of whether Scotland's police forces were guilty of institutional racism, saying the issue was not specifically addressed.

However, he conceded there were cases where racism did "unwittingly" occur.

The report was ordered by Justice Minister Jim Wallace as part of the Scottish response to the issues thrown up by the inquiry into the 1993 murder of London teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Since then, the race issue in Scotland has been given an extra dimension by the case of Surjit Singh Chhokar, a young Asian whose death in November 1998 was followed by two trials but no convictions.

Recommendations

Mr Wallace said: "This report is one step of many to ensure that the lessons from both cases are learnt throughout the system."

The report made 18 recommendations but did not publicly identify the forces involved.

Mr Taylor found race incidents in Scotland amounted mainly to verbal abuse, vandalism and disorder.

Surjit Chhokar
No-one was convicted of Mr Chhokar's murder
But the report acknowledged the "corrosive" accumulative effect on victims who may have been repeatedly subject to racial abuse.

It also called for a more co-ordinated approach to the gathering of local police intelligence.

Mr Taylor said some forces still have a gap between race relations policy and practice, and some rely too heavily on one or more "highly motivated" individual officers.

The quality of interpreting services for victims and others was "variable", and this required a national solution, said the report.

Training manual

Police training in race relation issues was said to be progressing "slowly" from a national perspective, and the confidence of some officers in dealing with ethnic communities may have been hit by a lack of effective training and the high profile of racial issues.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said it was encouraged the report had recognised the positive steps already taken and was determined to address work that still needs to be done.

Andrew Brown
Grampian Chief Constable, Andrew Brown
Speaking on behalf of the association, Chief Constable Andrew Brown of Grampian Police said: "We will be building on existing good work described in the HMI Report which includes better community consultation, more lay involvement, increased staff awareness and improved use of legislation."

In August, police forces across Scotland were issued with a manual to help them improve their handling of racially-motivated crimes.

The 31-page document covers the reporting and recording of racist crimes and how to investigate them, with particular emphasis on the need to reassure vulnerable victims of the police's long-term support.

The manual also includes advice on the general policing of ethnic communities, the recruitment and career development of police officers from ethnic minorities and sections on training and fair practice.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Scotland
Police given race crime guidance
11 Feb 00 | Scotland
Strathclyde race crimes soar
25 Mar 99 | Stephen Lawrence
The Lawrence inquiry
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