British police chiefs consider publicly admitting institutional racism | Police

Top British police officials are considering publicly admitting that their forces are institutionally racist, the Guardian has learned.

High-level talks began Thursday and come as their special advisor on race says the declaration is necessary if promises of sweeping reform are to be believed by Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) communities. Further discussions will take place in January and a decision from the police chiefs is expected in February.

Police were embroiled in a racial crisis with a series of controversies over stops, searches and the use of force, leaving blacks’ confidence lower than whites. Police chiefs have admitted that this undermines their legitimacy and their ability to fight crime.

The National Council of Chiefs of Police (NPCC) has appointed lawyer Abimbola Johnson to chair an independent council to review a series of promised reforms.

Abimbola Johnson. Photography: Abimbola Johnson

A new plan to make the police anti-racist is promised and Johnson has said institutional racism must be admitted. “The plan must accept institutional racism, if it is to be anti-racist,” she said. “If the idea is to gain the trust of black communities, the police must start by recognizing both historical and current manifestations of racism in the police. “

Police were first officially branded as institutional racists in the 1999 Macpherson Report on the failures that allowed the racist killers of black student Stephen Lawrence to escape justice for so long.

The ranks of officers are still disproportionately white, with a lower proportion of ethnic minority officers in the police force than in the general population.

Last year, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick denied that the police were institutionally racist, telling MPs it was “not a label I find useful.” She said: “I don’t think we are failing collectively. I do not think so [racism] is a massive systemic problem, I don’t think it’s institutionalized, and more specifically, I think we’ve come a very, very, very long way.

Johnson said: “The reluctance to admit institutional racism comes from emphasizing the comforts of bad people rather than the black experience. For this program to work, the police need to have conversations that make them uncomfortable. “

Sir William Macpherson defined institutional racism as: “The collective failure of an organization to provide appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnicity. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviors that constitute discrimination through unintentional prejudice, ignorance, recklessness and racist stereotypes that disadvantage ethnic minorities.

The leaders of the 43 local forces in England and Wales are divided on the issue. Some believe the term qualifies them all as racist and is an unwarranted insult given the great improvements they say have been made since the 1999 Macpherson Report.

A high-level source during Thursday’s talks said the leaders were trying to reach a deal. “Some fear sending a message that nothing has changed since Macpherson.” Another said: “There are polarized opinions. The discussions were thoughtful and thoughtful.

Sir Dave Thompson, NPCC vice-chairman, said they would consider accepting that the forces they lead are institutionally racist. “We will examine how we use the language of discrimination and racism with police chiefs to recognize the scale of the challenge we see for communities, while being able to report on the actions we intend. to take, ”he said.

Thompson, the chief constable of the West Midlands force, added: “The police are not free from prejudice, discrimination and racism. We recognize that it is not just a matter of individuals, but also of police policies and practices. I am very clear that there will be problems of institutional racism in the police force. There will also be systemic racism, structural racism and also racial disparities that are not due to racism in policing because we are monitoring an unequal society.

“There is a concern, expressed in the [government’s] Racial Disparities Commission report that the term institutional racism can be used too casually as an explanatory term for any disparity or discrimination. This is why the application of this term requires careful thought.

Police officers from ethnic minorities represent 7% of the workforce, compared to 14% of the population. BAME officers are twice as likely to be fired as their white counterparts.

Among the public, blacks are more likely to be arrested for suspected drug offenses, but are less likely to use them. Recent official figures have shown that the equivalent of a fifth of ethnic minority men between the ages of 15 and 19 have been arrested in a single year, with blacks being seven times more likely to be arrested.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said promises were no longer enough and institutional racism had to be admitted. “A problem can never be truly resolved if it is not clearly identified and it is not clear how their plan might lead to action for something the police don’t really believe is real,” he said. declared.

The racial crisis that has plagued the police has led thousands to take to the streets of the UK in support of Black Lives Matter, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States in May 2020.

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