January 11, 2013 by Nash Riggins
Last year, the Metropolitan Police in London responded to 607 racially-motivated hate crimes – which is hardly surprising, given that there were at least 51 complaints asserting the police service itself was responsible for racist activity.
Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that racism continues to infest police services throughout the UK. Within the past decade alone, there have been over 120 confirmed cases of racism by Met police officers – yet only one officer has been accordingly dismissed.
It’s difficult to discern where this behaviour stems from; however, the answer can most likely be found via a round-up of the ‘usual suspects’ (ie ethnic minorities). Indeed, official Metropolitan Police crime figures estimate that, whilst 12% of London’s men are black, they are responsible for at least 54% of the street crimes committed by all men in London. That being said, this estimate should be considered grossly misleading, as it does not indicate that black men are actually responsible for said crimes – only that the police “proceed against” black men in those proportions whenever street crimes are committed.
Perhaps the most telling example of such racially-charged harassment by police surfaced yesterday, when 35-year-old teacher Stuart Lawrence submitted a formal complaint for having been unnecessarily stopped by officers up to 25 times because of his skin colour. The story of Mr Lawrence is of particular relevance, given the circumstances of his brother’s death in 1993.
Stuart’s brother, 19-year-old Stephen Lawrence, was murdered by a gang of white youths shouting racist chants while waiting for a bus in South London. Met Police handled the case atrociously, and initially all 5 of the murderers escaped without conviction.
A subsequent public inquiry held 5 years later by Sir William Macpherson found the Metropolitan Police Service to be “institutionally racist”, and recommended that double jeopardy laws be changed in cases of murder so that a retrial could be conducted. The government acquiesced, and two of the original suspects were tried and convicted.
That being said, one can’t help but wonder if the tale of Stephen Lawrence would have ended differently had the acting police service not been plagued by racist tendencies. Indeed, could it be possible that Met police officers were unable to prevent the boy’s murder because they were wasting time unnecessarily stopping black youths just down the street? Would Stephen Lawrence have been killed if police officers were more prone to stop whites rather than blacks?
Since his brother’s death, Stuart Lawrence has been held a shocking 25 times by police officers – in fact, Lawrence reports that one officer even admitted to stopping him simply because he looked “naturally suspicious”. On only two of these 25 occasions did the officers in question provide Mr Lawrence with a valid reason for stopping him, such as a legitimate traffic checkpoint.
Unfortunately, Mr Lawrence isn’t the only victim of such blatant racial profiling. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicates that police services are up to 28 times more likely to use stop-and-search powers against black people than white people – and Met police use this tactic more than any other service.
How many avoidable crimes are committed by white people whilst police officers are harassing innocent black people? It’s hard to say – but Metropolitan Police most likely pursue those same innocent black men again after the fact.
Stuart Lawrence deserves one hell of a settlement – because even though life’s no fair, police services should be. Racism has absolutely no place in an ethnically-diverse society, and Westminster would do well to stage a massive rethink over the ways in which the nation’s streets are patrolled. Otherwise, the tale of Stephen Lawrence is bound to keep repeating itself.