Marc Wadsworth, Trudy Simpson and Juliana Lucas
Plans by Britain’s top police officer to tackle racism in the Met and bring in changes to answer community concerns have been greeted with disbelief from some leading black people.
Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has pledged to “rid the Met” of racist police following a crisis at the Met. It was sparked by an officer, PC Alex MacFarlane, who was caught calling Mauro Demetrio, a 21-year-old black man “a n*****”. MacFarlane, who was recorded on Demetrio’s mobile phone, has been suspended and charged and his case is among 11 involving police racism being probed by the Met. Hogan-Howe has promised that the investigation will end in four weeks. Other probes have dragged on for months.
The Commissioner, who was quizzed by MPs about the race crisis on Tuesday (April 17), unveiled a package of measures at a public meeting in Clapham, south London, on Wednesday (April 11) that included:
- Zero tolerance of racist officers
- Positive action to fast-track the recruitment of black people into senior police posts using “lateral entry” to hire them. Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Patricia Gallan, Britain’s most senior black police woman, who served under Hogan-Howe when he was Chief Constable, has been tipped as a new Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Met.
- The introduction of CCTV into the Met’s 6,000 vehicles, including police vans, where some people have sometimes died
- The conclusion of a review of controversial police stop and search, which has “disproportionately” targeted black people, particularly males, by May with changes to include less “but more intelligent” stops and the better training of officers
But Hogan-Howe refused to be drawn on when any of this would be done.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, chair of the Met’s Trident Independent Advisory Group, was unimpressed. She said: “The Commissioner’s slow and casual intervention as a result of media pressure amounts to business as usual for police racists.“
She added: “The Commissioner has jumped to some headline grabbing knee jerk reactions without fully exploring the extent of the problem.”
Webbe recommended the setting up of a South Africa-style 'truth and reconciliation' type hearing allowing for members of the public and serving black and minority ethnic officers “to share their experiences, only then will he (the Commissioner) understand the extent of hurt felt and the depth of complaints raised”.
“The problem with the solutions proposed relate to the historical culture of resistance amongst the ordinary rank and file (police) and the failure of leadership to tackle this. No targets or dates have been set as to when disproportional stop and search will end or when functioning CCTV will be put into police vans and whether they will be independently monitored.”
Ken Fero, spokesperson for anti-death in custody coalition group United Families and Friends, said about CCTV in police vehicles: “I think he (the Commissioner) must make sure it is all working. The racism will be happening outside the van. Hogan-Howe's proposal is not dealing with the fundamental issue of racism which I believe is a cultural thing. Any police officer ever accused of such should be sacked immediately.”
But Merlin Emmanuel, nephew of reggae singer Smiley Culture who died in police custody last year, warily welcomed Hogan-Howe’s plan. "I do not think it would reduce the amount of racism. It might reduce the amount of racially sensitive remarks made in a police van…What we are really about is trying to reduce injuries and any other negative events that might occur in a police van or car when nobody is watching."
Black Police Association chair Bevan Powell said: “I have got more confidence in this Commissioner than I have had for a long time in terms of him trying to really address the situation. But obviously we have to wait and see the concrete outcomes and what actually happens within the organisation.”
He added that Hogan-Howe would “have to ensure that the procedures that we (the Met) have can remove racists from the organisation”.
It was during this meeting with more than 100 angry Londoners that he revealed he was putting in cameras in police vehicles, as demanded by The Voice and black campaigners.
He also admitted more work needs to be done on stop and search. Hogan-Howe said: “We’re getting too many complaints, particularly from young black boys, but not only from them, about kids who have never been in trouble getting stopped and keep getting stopped.”
Police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said on Monday (April 16) it would "closely scrutinise" how the Met handles racism complaints. The IPCC said it would be reviewing concluded and ongoing complaints where racism had been alleged and would now ask the Met to refer to it all cases where racism was alleged, from April 1, 2012.