Met Commissioner admits force ‘not free of discrimination, racism or bias’

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The Metropolitan Police commissioner has said she feels “very sorry” that trust among Black communities is so low, as she admitted her force “is not free of discrimination, racism or bias”.

Cressida Dick issued a statement as the force outlined plans for 40% of new recruits to be from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) from 2022.

It comes as London mayor Sadiq Khan published an action plan to address concerns over the use of police powers affecting Black Londoners, including stop and search and the use of Tasers. It also comes after the mother of Stephen Lawrence argued “that there has been very little change” in the Metropolitan Police (MPS) since the death of her son.

Scrutiny

Khan has called for an immediate review of police road traffic stops in the capital and has asked the Met to launch a year-long pilot scheme looking at samples to identify any disproportionality relating to ethnicity. His plan also aims to ensure officers are not relying on the smell of cannabis alone when deciding to stop and search a person, with such incidents subjected to “London-wide scrutiny panels”.

Figures show Black people are almost four times more likely to be stopped and searched in the street than white people in London. They are also six times more likely to be stopped in their vehicles, according to City Hall.

The Met said the force is working with Khan on his plan and have immediately re-introduced the London residency requirement for most officers joining the force.

Trust is low

Dick said:

I recognise trust in the Met is still too low in some Black communities, as is their trust in many other institutions.

I feel very sorry about that. It is something I have worked to change and I commit now to stepping up that work further.

My top two operational priorities are reducing violence and increasing public confidence in the Met, particularly the confidence of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Actions are more important than words and, as I have said before, we can do more and we will.

The Met is not free of discrimination, racism or bias. I have always acknowledged that and do now again.

In the Met we have zero tolerance of racism.  My job is to continue to try to eliminate any such racism and discrimination, however it appears.

Baroness Lawrence

Not everyone agrees that Dick or the MPS have “zero tolerance of racism”. In a recent statement to the Undercover Policing Inquiry, baroness Doreen Lawrence – mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – said that:

[Stephen’s] racist murderers… are still alive; not a single police officer was disciplined or sacked, rather they were promoted in their careers or are now enjoying their retirement; and many of those that spied upon Baroness Lawrence and her family have, to date, evaded proper scrutiny.

The statement continued:

The reality is that there has been very little change. What change there has been was forced upon the MPS. It has never welcomed it or embraced it. This year Ben Bowling, a professor of criminology at Kings College London, said British policing “remains institutionally racist”. He has accused the police of failing to deliver on promises to eradicate racism instead allowing “prejudice, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping” to continue driving unequal treatment. Black and ethnic minority people are still over-policed and under-protected.

BLM

Black Lives Matter protests swept the capital following the death of George Floyd in the US on 25 May.

The MPS faced controversy and accusations of racial profiling following a series of incidents filmed and shared online, including the vehicle stop of Team GB athlete Bianca Williams and her Portuguese sprinter boyfriend Ricardo Dos Santos. Five officers are being investigated for misconduct after they were pulled over while travelling with their baby in west London in July.

Dick described 46-year-old Floyd’s death after a policeman kneeled on his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota as “utterly awful” but she claimed UK policing is “entirely different”.

Bianca Williams
Team GB athlete Bianca Williams (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Disproportionate power

The MPS said new recruits will be taught the history of the local area they will police and will learn the importance of “cultural awareness” during stop and search training, including “scenario-based role play”. Scotland Yard has also reinstated access by community monitoring groups to body-worn video footage.

The mayor said he recognised the progress made by the MPS since the force was described as “institutionally racist” in William Macpherson’s 1999 report following an inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. However, Khan added:

More must be done, and will be done through this action plan, properly to recognise and address the impact that some police tactics used disproportionately on Black people is having.

This starts with involving communities and ensuring they have proper oversight and scrutiny of stop and search, the use of Tasers and the use of force, as well as in the training of new police officers so they can better understand the trauma that the disproportionate use of police powers can have on Black Londoners.



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