Police Force in England and Wales operates in a fair and unprejudiced way

‘The Police Force in England and Wales operates in a fair and unprejudiced way.’

This paper will begin by giving a critical review of racism and institutional racism and will link this with fair and unprejudiced way and the effects it has on the Police Force. This paper will highlight the instances of racism in the United Kingdom that caused riots and it will deliberate how governmental institutions such as the Police Force have been deemed to be racist and what has been recommended to combat institutional racism. In putting this study into context this paper will use three examples of significant events concerning the police that caused uproar. The first was Brixton riots which were a conflict between the police and protestors in Lambeth. The second was the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham in London. The third is the recent shooting of Mark Duggan, who was shot by police in Tottenham and killed.

Michael Bailey

The catalyst of the Brixton riots was the stabbing of a black youth, namely Michael Bailey. The victim had been stabbed by some young black men, the police attempted to help him but Michael Bailey thought he was being arrested, broke free from the policeman’s grip and ran away. He was chased by two officers who then dispensed first aid and called for an ambulance. A group of young black men saw what was happening and took hold of Bailey from the police, put him in a car and took him to hospital. In 1981 Great Britain was in recession. The local black community was especially suffering the most. There was high unemployment, deprived housing, and a high crime rate. This demonstrated the distrust the local African-Caribbean community had for the police. A lot of tension was mounting up between the Lambeth’s black community and the Metropolitan police. Stop and search was increasing as a result of the “Operation Swamp 81”. This involved plain clothes officers stopping and searching black youths in order to prevent street robberies.[1] In the aftermath of the incident, the police maintained “Operation Swamp 81”, which made the black community angry and this lead to a full scale riot, famously called the Brixton riots.

Stephen Lawrence

A 10:30 pm, on the 22nd April, Stephen Lawrence, a black male of 18 years of age was with his friend Duwayne Brooks waiting at the bus stop. In front of eye witnesses he was stabbed twice in the chest. He subsequently died. The attackers were five racist white youths who were chanting: “What, what, nigger?” The police declined to treat this incident as a racist attack. The police inferred that Duwayne Brooks was a suspect notwithstanding he was Stephen’s friend. There was a massive public outcry in relation to this incident which led to the Sir William Macpherson’s report. 

Mark Duggan

On 4 August 2011a 29 year old black man, namely Mark Duggan, was shot dead by police in Tottenham. The Metropolitan Police claimed armed officers were trying to arrest Duggan, who was under investigation on suspicion of planning an attack. The police further claimed Duggan was in possession of a gun. Duggan was shot in the chest and died. Duggan’s killing resulted in public protests in Tottenham.[2] This event along with the coming in of the new Conservative government leading to cuts, poverty and racial tension, escalated to clashes with police and escalated into riots across London.[3] The riots then spread to other cities in England.[4] This is seen as the catalyst of the 2011 riots nationwide.

Introduction

The first part of the essay will discuss institutional racism in the police force. The second part of this essay will discuss Lord Scarman and Sir William Macpherson’s conclusions on Institutional Racism. It will then discuss the police botching up the Stephen Lawrence’s murder investigation. The third part will examine Sir Macpherson’s recommendations and how the government have responded to the recommendations. Lastly this paper will look at the Mark Duggan incident is see if any lessons were learnt from the Macpherson’s report. Lastly this paper will conclude by examining what the government is doing to achieve more equality to policing.

Racism and Institutional Racism

Sandra Fredman defines racism as, “racism is not about objective characteristics, but about relationships of domination and subordination, about hatred of the ‘Other’ in defence of ‘Self’, perpetrated and apparently legitimated through images of the ‘Other’ as inferior, abhorrent, even sub-human.[5] With institutional racism on the other hand we run into problems of problem of generality, acceptance, universality and exhaustiveness. These two concepts are not easily married and cannot have “universality” in terms of definition from literature.[6] Thus for the purposes of this paper we can borrow the definitions of Lord Scarman and Sir William MacPherson’s reports from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.[7]

Sir William Macpherson in the inquiry and his report used the term, institutional racism as a description of “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”, which “can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes, and behaviour, which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping, which disadvantages minority ethnic people”.[8] Macpherson definition of institutional racism is indistinguishable to Stokely Carmichael’s definition which he came up with some forty years earlier. Charles Hamilton and Stokely Carmichael[9] were black activists and coined the term “institutional racism” to describe the discrimination that comes as a result of societal structure which results in “layers of inequality for minority ethnic people in housing, income, employment, education and health”.[10]

The Brixton riots

On the 14th of April the William Whitelaw Home Secretary asked Lord Scarman to conduct an enquiry into the Brixton riots.[11] This was only two days after the riots ended. In November of 1981 Lord Scarman reported his findings to Parliament. One of the main factors that were reported by Lord Scarman was the social condition in which the black community was living.[12] The conditions were described as dreadful in Lambeth. There was overcrowding of families in properties. There were more than 12,000 properties for accommodation in the borough, 8,250 were deemed inhabitable with one or more basic amenities not present. Much of these properties were located where the riots took place.[13] It appeared the Michael Bailey incident was the last straw, and the community protested violently causing unrest.[14]

The police was criticised for not operating in a fair and unprejudiced way. The criticism was that the police had ‘Racial Prejudice’. The conclusions drawn by Lord Scarman’s inquiry, was that the riots were provoked by the police’s harassment of the black community by a prejudiced police force. This was evident in the way conducted the stop and search scheme. Lord Scarman recommended that the police force should be a more a multi cultural police and representational of the community. Lord Scarman started the Recruitment of black people into the force, by concluding that ethnic minorities were heavily underrepresented in the police force. Black people serving in the Police in 1981 were 0.5% of the total of the Metropolitan Police force.[15]

All what was criticised was the way the police are trained. It was recommended that the needed to be more sufficiently trained to police a multi-cultural society. Lord Scarman recommended the police needed to devote time and resources to training.[16] This is something that was started then and now become a major feature of the force i.e. recently with new Polish police men and women in London to help deal with our current more multi-cultural society. Although Lord Scarman went some way his report fell short of identifying the Police institutionally racist.[17]

Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Ten years after the Brixton riots the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw order an open inquiry into the substandard police investigation of Stephen Lawrence the black teenager. The inquiry was to be led by Sir William Macpherson and look specifically at the actions of the Metropolitan Police. This was after persistent campaigning by the parents of Stephen Lawrence Mr and Mrs Neville Lawrence. They wanted justice was their sons murder and rightly so. The inquiry’s focus was to look at the police and its treatment of ethnic minorities.

The report found that the Metropolitan Police was in fact institutionally racist, ten years after Lord Scarman’s inquiry.[18] A mass total of seventy recommendations were made calling for reform. The Macpherson report uncovered many anomalies, the prejudice and improper dealings of the Metropolitan Police especially during the Stephen Lawrence murder investigations. The Sir Macpherson’s report condemned the Police force as “institutionally racist”. Sir Macpherson’s reported:

“Lord Scarman, at page 135 of his Report relating to the Brixton disorders of 1981 said this:-

“The evidence which I have received, the effect of which I have outlined …., leaves no doubt in my mind that racial disadvantage is a fact of current British life ….. . Urgent action is needed if it is not to become an endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society… racial disadvantage and its nasty associate racial discrimination, have not yet been eliminated. They poison minds and attitudes; they are, as long as they remain, and will continue to be a potent factor of unrest”.

Lord Macpherson further went on to explain, the concept of “institutional racism” for the purposes of the inquiry as:

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”[19]

The Macpherson report provided seventy reforms for eradicating racism and recommended that it should not be tolerated whatsoever. The report also proposed “accountability, openness and restoration of confidence regarding the Metropolitan Police”. The report did not stop there it also recommended that other public bodies such as “schools, the judicial system, civil service, the National Health Service” all have to incorporate these changes to avoid being labelled institutionally racist.[20]

Government’s responses to Macpherson

Ten years after Sir Macpherson brought forth what he ascertained in his report, the House of Commons appointed home affairs which collaborated on the 28th of April 2009 in order to reflect whether any advancement had been made in regards to racism in our police force.[21] Persons that co-operated on this day were Stephen Lawrence’s mother, Mrs Doreen Lawrence, Mr. Alfred John who sat as chair of the Metropolitan Black police Association, Trevor Phillips who sat as chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission; Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rod Jarman of the Metropolitan Police and Chief Constable Stephen Otter which was the Association of chief police officers’ lead for race and diversity. Formal evidence was also obtained from Duwayne Brooks and the Home office.[22] The above named people where key witnesses to the significant investigation a decade on. All witnesses present agreed appropriate development was taken in attacking racial prejudice and discrimination since 1999. Further what Sir Macpherson propounded, sixty eight out of seventy of his recommendations the home office reported to the committee had been implemented in part or entirely. Senior officer’s work carried out to raise awareness of race as a concern throughout the force was acknowledged and was given praise.

Subsequently Mr Phillips clearly indicated that the Macpherson Report had influence on police leadership: The phraseology of “institutional racism” was fundamental in order for police forces all over Great Britain to be aware of the defect and danger of the existing issue.[23] As a result of this it seems that police forces have given huge consideration and attention to the issue; and a lot of resources have been put in.

Duwayne Brooks explained that the introduction of suitably trained Family Liaison Officers as suggested by Sir Macpherson was significant and desirable. Chief Constable Otter claimed as a result of such improvements the confidence levels in black communities have risen, and can be said the confidence levels in black communities were commensurate with the confidence levels of white communities in the police.[24] However, concerns were raised in relation to stop and search laws, which suggest police forces, still fail ethnic minorities. Under s.1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched.[25]

In the course of the Macpherson Inquiry, Mrs Lawrence put forward her anxiety and worries in relation to the treatment she and her family endured during the investigation of Stephen’s killing. Although family Liaison officers have now been introduced with the aim of building better relationships between victims’ families and investigation team, she expresses her opinion for these officers; “are more there to collect information and evidence rather than communicate to the family how the investigation is happening” and she holds that black families receive different treatment compared to white families.[26] Mrs Lawrence opined the cause for this was due to officers’ ideology/assumption that victims of violence that were of black race and were themselves involved in criminal activities. In 2007-2008 people from ethnic minority communities 28 percent of them felt because of their race they would not be treated fairly by the police or another criminal justice agency.[27]

Police forces recognised themselves relaxed progress has been made by them within the police force itself. Recommendations put forward by Macpherson that policing should embrace targets for “recruitment, progression and retention of ethnic minority staff” by the end of 2008, however twenty out of the forty three forces in England and Wales failed to reach individual targets and the overall ratio had only risen from around 2 percent to 4.1. Further not much growth in progression up the ranks. For example at the time of the committees meeting there was one black chief constable in Kent.[28]

Mr Alfred John, contended that punishment inflicted by way of correction and training in the workforce is still “extremely disproportionate and extremely harsh towards visible minorities”.[29] For example it appears that 8.5 percent of black officers and officers from ethnic minority communities were in all likelihood dismissed or required to give up their role/job in comparison with 1.7 percent from their white counterparts. This analysis was also highlighted by Mr Trevor Philips;“there are some parts of the police service…..particularly some of what people call the ‘elite squads’, which are essentially still largely white and male”.[30] 

Although organisations proclaim their obligation to equality and diversity, Blair McPherson questions whether organisations are actually dealing with and confronting indirect, silent forms of discrimination. It was established that a manager was a racially discriminated by a National Health Service Trust who was awarded £1million. The establishment is regarded as institutionally racist. Notwithstanding the decision of the tribunal, the organisation protests “we are not racist” Not surprisingly the organisation themselves are not on their own when refusing to identify/accept institutional racism exists.

Senior management of numerous organisations believe racism is not an issue. For example a young African-Caribbean woman who was not shortlisted after she made an application submitted a complaint against a manager. Upon investigation it was held the individual did not have management experience which was a specification for the post. Thus the decision not to shortlist was correct. However her dispute was that the specification was added by the manager after he was aware she was interested in the post. Further inquiry exposed that a working group was responsible for setting up a job description and a person specification was that was produced had no requirement for a management qualification.

As the complainant was a member of the working group she is sure this was the case. She was also aware of the requirement for management qualification was necessary as it was added by the manager who enlisted for the post. This information was given to her when she queried to Human Resources why the description changed and who altered it. This was confirmed by Human Resources and said the manager maintained that the nature of the post should carry more remuneration to attract existing managers. The person specification was altered to show this. The objection was justified and she lost her argument against the manager. However this was not first occurrence where staff members observed that this manager on no occasion employ persons of black race a manager. Within the class of black employees this was just further evidence. The question to be asked is whether the manager was racist but done so in a silent, sneaky way? I would say yes he was indirectly racist towards the complainant.

The Mark Duggan killing and the Riots

The recent shooting of Mark Duggan, by police on 4 August 2011 sparked much outrage. The Metropolitan Police stated Duggan was in possession of a gun. Duggan was being investigated by the subdivision of the police namely Operation Trident. Duggan had taken a blank firing replica gun which had been converted to fire bullets only 15 minutes before he was shot dead y police from Kevin Hutchinson-Foster. The trial of Hutchinson-Foster had yielded evidence and reports which allowed the jury to convict him of supplying Duggan with the gun. The Independent Police Complaints Commission conducted an investigation into the killing of Mark Duggan. One criticism is that they delayed their report for more than one year. A public inquest was conducted on the killing and with an 8–2 majority it was decided that Duggan was lawfully killed.[31]

The riots that ensued as a result of the killing started after protests in Tottenham, north London, where Duggan lived. This spread over days to other areas where black and ethnic communities populated such as Hackney, Brixton, Walthamstow, Peckham, Enfield, Battersea, Croydon, Ealing, Barking, Woolwich, Lewisham and East Ham. What was unprecedented was that the riots spread as the media as “copycat violence” to other towns and cities in England including Birmingham, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich, Bristol, Lincoln, Manchester, and Salford. The chaos that resulted was responsible for generating mass looting, arson, fighting with riot police. Five people died in all the violence.[32]

Question arises as to if any lessons have been learnt from Macpherson and Brixton riots. Considering the lessons learnt through Macpherson did the police Force operates in a fairer and unprejudiced way? One major criticism is that the account of Duggan’s death has undergone numerous changes. This has drawn suspicion from Duggan’s family and supporters, along with residents of Tottenham, and amongst the black and ethnic communities. Criticisers accuse the police of misconduct.[33] They also say the police failed to co-operate with investigating Duggan’s death. This goes to show the public’s confidence is still shaken and of the view of the lack fairer and unprejudiced approach. The shortcomings of the police’s conduct have been blamed for stoking the rights and leaving the black community feeling like “there can be no peace without justice”.[34]

Equality

Equality after the Macpherson Report was it an achievement or a fantasy? Fairness and unprejudiced functioning of the police force requires equality of policing. The government’s equality strategy sets out our vision for a strong, modern and fair Britain. It states the “Government will act as a leader, a catalyst and an advocate for change. We will continue to make targeted interventions where these will make a real difference, but on its own government can only ever make limited progress.”[35]

The equality strategy was built on two principles of equality. First on the equal treatment and equal opportunity, which means everyone is equal and not treated differently purely because of where they have come from. The strategy is based on one where it aims at changing people attitude towards equality in the hope it will pave the way for a stronger, fairer and more united society. The government have highlighted:

We will work with people, communities and businesses to empower them to enact change. Only if we do that; only if we work with the grain of human nature, not against it, will we achieve the fairer, more equal and more prosperous society that we all want to see.”[36]

Theresa May the Home Secretary and minister for women and equality remarked:

“Equality underpins this coalition’s guiding principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility. But in the end, it will take all of us working together to build the strong, modern and fair Britain that we all want to see.”[37] 

In 2012 the government published a report. This report described a new approach to be adopted towards equality. This approach is based on transparency, local accountability and reducing bureaucracy. There is a shift towards a thrust across the five key priority areas outlined in the equality strategy.[38] To conclude, Sir William Macpherson’s inquiry and recommendations have been a gradual achievement in the right direction and not illusionary. A lot more needs to be happen to instil trust and confidence in the British public to assure them that the police force operates in a fairer and unprejudiced way.[39]

Bibliography

Angel, Harry. “Viewpoint: were the riots political?” Safer communities 11.1 (2012): 24-32.

Benyon, John, ed. Scarman and after: essays reflecting on Lord Scarman’s report, the riots and their aftermath. Elsevier, 2014.

Fredman, Sandra. Discrimination law. Oxford University Press, 2011

Garner, Steve. Racisms: an introduction. Sage, 2009.

Government Equalities Office, The Equality StrategyBuilding a Fairer Britain: Progress Report (London:  2010)

Hall, Stuart. “From Scarman to Stephen Lawrence.” History Workshop Journal. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Hargreaves, Julian. “Book review: Hidden Stories of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Personal Reflections.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14.4 (2014): 525-527.

Hepple, Bob. “Race and law in fortress Europe” The Modern Law Review 67.1 (2004): 1-15.

Home Affairs Committee. “The Macpherson Report–Ten Years On.” London: The Stationery Office (2009).

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. Policing in the 21st Century: Report, Together with Formal Minutes. Vol. 364. The Stationery Office, 2008.

Jacobs, B. D. “The Brixton riots: London 1981.” U. Rosenthal, MT Charles, & P.’t Hart (Eds.), Coping with crises: The management of disasters, riots and terrorism (1989): 340-366.

Lewis, Paul (7 August 2011). “Tottenham riots: a peaceful protest, then suddenly all hell broke loose”. The Guardian (UK)

Lopez, Ian F. Haney. “Institutional racism: Judicial conduct and a new theory of racial discrimination.” Yale Law Journal (2000): 1717-1884.

Macpherson, Sir William. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: report of an inquiry. TSO, 1999.

“Mark Duggan inquest latest”. BBC Online. 8 January 2014

“Metropolitan police still institutionally racist”, The Guardian, 22 April 2003

Muir, Hugh. “Tottenham riots: missteps in the dance of police and a frustrated community.” The Guardian 5 (2011).

Prasad, Rhaeka (4 December 2011). “Reading the riots: Rebels with a cause? Rioters claim ‘payback’ against the police: On the streets Those involved in the unrest speak of a common enemy – and a shared hatred of stop and search”. The Guardian.

Scarman, Leslie George. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders 10-12 April 1981: report of an inquiry. Puffin, 1986.

Sharp, Douglas, and Susie Atherton. “To serve and protect? The experiences of policing in the community of young people from Black and other ethnic minority groups.” British Journal of Criminology 47.5 (2007): 746-763.

Tyler, Imogen. “Designed to fail: a biopolitics of British citizenship.” Citizenship studies 14.1 (2010): 61-74.

Waddington, David. “The law of moments: understanding the flashpoint that ignited the riots: David Waddington on how the shooting of Mark Duggan led to the August rioting.” Criminal Justice Matters 87.1 (2012): 6-7.

[1] Tyler, Imogen. “Designed to fail: a biopolitics of British citizenship.” Citizenship studies 14.1 (2010): 61-74.

[2] Prasad, Rhaeka (4 December 2011). “Reading the riots: Rebels with a cause? Rioters claim ‘payback’ against the police: On the streets Those involved in the unrest speak of a common enemy – and a shared hatred of stop and search”. The Guardian.

[3] Angel, Harry. “Viewpoint: were the riots political?.” Safer communities 11.1 (2012): 24-32.

[4] Lewis, Paul (7 August 2011). “Tottenham riots: a peaceful protest, then suddenly all hell broke loose”. The Guardian (UK)

[5] Fredman, Sandra. Discrimination law. Oxford University Press, 2011, p.51

[6] Lopez, Ian F. Haney. “Institutional racism: Judicial conduct and a new theory of racial discrimination.” Yale Law Journal (2000): 1717-1884.

[7] Macpherson, Sir William. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: report of an inquiry. TSO, 1999.

[8] “Metropolitan police still institutionally racist”, The Guardian, 22 April 2003

[9] Stokely, Carmichael, and Charles V. Hamilton. “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation.” New York, Vintage (1967).

[10] Garner, Steve. Racisms: an introduction. Sage, 2009.

[11] Scarman, Leslie George. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders 10-12 April 1981: report of an inquiry. Puffin, 1986.

[12] Jacobs, B. D. “The Brixton riots: London 1981.” U. Rosenthal, MT Charles, & P.’t Hart (Eds.), Coping with crises: The management of disasters, riots and terrorism (1989): 340-366.

[13] Scarman, Leslie George. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders 10-12 April 1981: report of an inquiry. Puffin, 1986.

[14] Hall, Stuart. “From Scarman to Stephen Lawrence.” History Workshop Journal. Oxford University Press, 1999.

[15] Scarman, Leslie George. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders 10-12 April 1981: report of an inquiry. Puffin, 1986.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Scarman, Leslie George. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders 10-12 April 1981: report of an inquiry. Puffin, 1986.

[19] Hepple, Bob. “Race and law in fortress Europe.” The Modern Law Review 67.1 (2004): 1-15.

[20] Scarman, Leslie George. The Scarman report: the Brixton disorders 10-12 April 1981: report of an inquiry. Puffin, 1986.

[21] Hargreaves, Julian. “Book review: Hidden Stories of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Personal Reflections.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14.4 (2014): 525-527.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Home Affairs Committee. “The Macpherson Report–Ten Years On.” London: The Stationery Office (2009).

[24] House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. Policing in the 21st Century: Report, Together with Formal Minutes. Vol. 364. The Stationery Office, 2008.

[25] Sharp, Douglas, and Susie Atherton. “To serve and protect? The experiences of policing in the community of young people from Black and other ethnic minority groups.” British Journal of Criminology 47.5 (2007): 746-763.

[26] Home Affairs Committee. “The Macpherson Report–Ten Years On.” London: The Stationery Office (2009).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Mark Duggan inquest latest”. BBC Online. 8 January 2014

[32] Waddington, David. “The law of moments: understanding the flashpoint that ignited the riots: David Waddington on how the shooting of Mark Duggan led to the August rioting.” Criminal Justice Matters 87.1 (2012): 6-7.

[33] Muir, Hugh. “Tottenham riots: missteps in the dance of police and a frustrated community.” The Guardian 5 (2011).

[34] Mark Wandsworth, Tottenham riot: There can be no peace without justice | The Latest at http://www.the-latest.com/tottenham-riot-there-can-be-no-peace-without-justice

[35] Government Equalities Office, The Equality StrategyBuilding a Fairer Britain: Progress Report (London:  2010)

[36] Government Equalities Office, The Equality StrategyBuilding a Fairer Britain: Progress Report (London:  2010)

[37] May, Theresa. “Equality Strategy Speech.” (2013)

[38] Ibid.

[39] Benyon, John, ed. Scarman and after: essays reflecting on Lord Scarman’s report, the riots and their aftermath. Elsevier, 2014.

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