Police and governments have done too little to root out racial injustice from the ranks, with the failures being systemic and leading to “unwarranted inequalities,” according to a report by an all-party committee of MPs.
The Home Affairs Committee report strongly criticized the progress made in the 22 years since the Macpherson report on why Stephen Lawrence’s white killers were allowed to be released, accusing “institutional racism”
The report criticizes the police for not reforming, but also successive governments of the two main parties for not taking racial justice seriously enough.
He condemns “deep-rooted and persistent racial disparities” and finds that the guidelines and recommendations have been ignored for the past two decades, or have not been acted upon.
Amid this, racial disparities affecting black and ethnic minority people (BAMEs), particularly black Britons, persist and cannot be explained or justified, according to the report.
Police chiefs responded by accepting the report, saying the slow pace of reform was a “deep regret” and promised real change.
The report calls “unjustified inequalities” the fact that blacks remain nine times more likely than whites to be arrested and searched in England and Wales, most of whom are innocent. Blacks are more likely to be arrested for drugs but are less likely to use them, according to the report.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister called the arrests and searches “amorous” as he launched a new criminal strategy ridiculed by some as a collection of gimmicks, including government approval to facilitate arrests without suspicion .
The report found that the recruitment of officers from ethnic minorities was too slow and that it is “inexcusable” that the forces take decades to be representative of the areas they control. Currently, 7% of officers are from ethnic minorities, compared to 14% of the population, with the Guardian’s demographic forecast predicting that the racial gap will widen further.
Retention of BAME officers who have joined is also an issue and they are twice as likely to be fired as their white counterparts.
In a very unusual move, the committee called “bad” a large expansion by the Met in its use of stop and research in London during the first months of foreclosure in 2020. This saw the equivalent of one in four black men between the ages of 15 and 24 were searched and did nothing wrong.
The report says: “It should never have been possible for the equivalent of one in four black men between the ages of 15 and 24 in London who were not committing a crime to be arrested and searched for a period of three months.
“This finding undermines arguments that stop and search were used judiciously during this period. “
The report notes: “Those we heard from in London expressed strong feelings of anger and frustration towards the police, particularly about how they felt the police did not treat them fairly or with respect, and also expressed the lack of confidence they had. that the police would keep them safe.
One justification offered for the racial disparity in stop and search numbers is the challenge of tackling knife crime. The committee rejected this argument: “We recognize the importance for the police to be able to take action against knife crime, and their concern that victims and perpetrators of knife crime are disproportionately black, but we also note that this does not explain the fact that there are significant racial disparities in stops and searches across forces nationwide, with some of the highest levels of disproportion in areas with high knife crime rates are very low. “
Neville Lawrence, Stephen’s father, said: “I am very concerned that black people continue to be disproportionately subjected to police powers such as stop and search, a situation which is worsening. It is also of concern that blacks remain disproportionately the victims of violent crime.
Lawrence supported the committee’s calls for a new steering group to oversee the changes: “In view of these failures, increased oversight is clearly needed and I’m glad the committee has recognized this.
The report calls for the appointment of a pedigree tsar for the maintenance of order; that the Minister of the Interior take more initiative in the conduct of the reform; and for police forces to resemble the communities they serve by 2030. They first set that goal in 1999, after a decade, and missed it.
The report adopts as a key conclusion an admission made in an interview with the Guardian by Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Council of Chiefs of Police, that race undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of police services. It also indicates that trust in the police is lower among some BAME communities than among whites, and that the gap is widening.
Hewitt praised the report: “[The committee’s] full report does justice to the significant impact Sir William Macpherson has had on society since 1999. Since then the police have changed, but as this report makes clear, not far enough or fast enough to gain everyone’s trust. communities and especially blacks, ”he said.
“It is a deep regret for the police and of course for those who knew Stephen. Addressing this is an operational imperative as the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UK police depends on the relationship between the police and the public. “
The Macpherson report said community confidence in policing should be a priority, but the committee felt it was not “a policing priority or a ministerial priority today. ‘hui’.
The committee praises some strengths for the progress made since the Macpherson report in 1999, but says they have been patchy and insufficient.
In a key passage, outlining the challenges facing the police, the report says: “The police today are very different from what they were 22 years ago and there have been significant and welcome improvements. … We have also seen persistent, deep-rooted and unwarranted racial disparities. in key areas.
“Failure to make sufficient progress in the recruitment, retention and progression of BAME, troubling racial disparities in the system of police misconduct, unwarranted inequalities in the use of core police powers such as the stop and search and a worrying drop in police confidence among some BAME communities all point to structural problems that go beyond individual biases.
“There has been a systematic failure on the part of police services and government, over many years, to take racial inequalities in policing seriously enough.
“The goal of the Macpherson report at the end of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry to” eliminate racist prejudice and disadvantage and to be fair in all aspects of policing “has not been met . “
The committee makes no findings on institutional racism, which the police deny, or on the effectiveness of the fight against the crime of stop and search, instead calling for more research.
The report blames the police and the government for trying to downplay or deny the racial crisis that has plagued the police. It saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets of Britain in support of Black Lives Matter, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States in May 2020.
Last month in the UK, a police officer who kicked a black man, Dalian Atkinson, in Telford was convicted of manslaughter, the first conviction of an officer in over 30 years.
Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association, said: “The denial of institutional racism has hindered initiatives to achieve racial equality in policing. Not only do we fail to recruit enough officers from an ethnic background, but we manage to retain them.
“This highlights the need to change the internal culture of the police. “
The report says it is “deeply concerned” that some victims of racial hate crimes say they have been treated by police as suspects rather than victims, and warns that police are failing to address them. racist hate crimes on the Internet.
Since George Floyd’s murder, police chiefs have promised reforms but little has been announced, and those familiar with the draft plans tell the Guardian they are little different from what has happened before.
Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “Without clear action to tackle racial inequalities, we fear that in 10 years future committees will hear the same arguments that have already been repeated for over 20 years. . It cannot happen.
Achievement was possible, according to the report: “Recent advances by the forces of Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire have shown that it is possible to rapidly increase the proportion of new BME recruits in relation to the proportion of BME residents in the local population . “
The Met said criticism of its increase in checks and searches in 2020 at the start of the lockdown was due to the fact that “officers have been reoriented in their duties, as overall crime levels decline, and have seen a lot of it. more in the streets undertake proactive policing in hot spots of violence and on general patrol duties.
“This resulted in an increase in the number of stops and searches carried out, but was not the result of any instructions given to officers to increase stops and searches. “
In a statement, Police Minister Kit Malthouse did not address key points from the report, such as the need for the government to do more. He said: “We know there is much more to do – which is why attracting more officers from a wide range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds is a core ambition of our drive to recruit 20,000. additional officers.
“Stopping and searching and other preventative activities set out in the crime plan are also essential to ensure that we are creating safer streets and neighborhoods. “