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  • Police watchdog: the Met is failing to tackle complaints of racism

    Warning: IPCC says racism complaints are being thrown out on the basis of an officers denial of them

    The Met is failing to tackle complaints of racism properly and needs a major “cultural change” to improve the way it deals with London’s minorities, the police watchdog said today.

    In a highly critical report, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said that Met investigators were often wrongly rejecting allegations of racism simply on the basis of an officer’s denial.

    It warns that other complaints are being thrown out because of the “unwillingness or inability” of officers to pursue them and highlights a further widespread failure to follow official guidelines when investigating alleged racist conduct.

    The report said that instead, the force tends to respond only to “overt” racism such as use of “n****r” and when other evidence such as mobile phone footage or whistleblower testimony is provided.

    The findings, which will raise concerns about the force’s progress since being labelled “institutionally racist” in Sir William Macpherson’s report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, came as the watchdog also revealed details of new racism cases within the Met. Today’s report discloses that:

    Two thirds of appeals over racism complaints rejected by the Met were upheld by the watchdog last year.

    The Met has little understanding of covert or subconscious racism by officers.

    Complainants’ perceptions of racism are often not taken seriously.

    Letters sent to complainants are regularly blighted by jargon, are defensive and fail to deal with specifics.

    Unveiling today’s report, Deborah Glass, the IPCC’s commissioner for London, said that racism remained a “toxic” issue for the Met and that big changes were urgently needed.

    “There is an enormous amount of guidance out there which the Met’s officers are not following and the only way to change that is through cultural change,” she said. “If the Met Commissioner wants to be credible when he says that there is zero tolerance of racism in the force then his officers need to understand what racism is.”

    Ms Glass said that dealing with complaints of racism against officers properly was vital to public confidence in London because of the large ethnic population and the lack of faith among some residents in police attitudes. She added: “Race is an incredibly sensitive and sometimes toxic issue for the Met as we have seen over decades. They have made progress, but there is still some way to go.”

    The report comes after a year-long inquiry by the IPCC following a spate of highly publicised racism allegations against the Met. One of those resulted in the dismissal of Pc Alex MacFarlane for gross misconduct despite his acquittal at Southwark crown court last year over an alleged racially aggravated public order offence involving the alleged use of racist language against a 21-year-old man.

    The report is based on an analysis of 511 racist allegations against Met officers or staff made by the public in 2011/12, plus monitoring of 61 cases referred to the IPCC in April and May last year and a detailed study of 20 other complaint files.

    It found that although cases passed to Scotland Yard’s directorate of professional standards were generally dealt with well, those resolved at borough level — which form the majority — were poorly handled.

    The report said that officers were “routinely asked for brief accounts via email” rather than being questioned on specifics and that a denial frequently resulted in a complaint being rejected with not enough weight placed on the complainant’s account.

    Met Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said that he was summoning all 32 borough commanders and other senior officers to study the findings in one of a series of measures to improve the force’s performance.

    He added that all investigations into racism complaints would also be overseen by Scotland Yard for the rest of the year to raise standards, but conceded that the Met was failing the public over the issue. Victims of racism by police will also be invited to meet senior officers to talk about their experiences to “help our understanding” of the problem, Mr Byrne said.

    Martin Bentham

    Published: 17 July 2013

    Updated: 15:41, 17 July 2013

    Find this story at 9 July 2013

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