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Ministers defend Met from racism claims

POLICE TRAINING: Met officers on a marching drill (PA)

GOVERNMENT MINISTERS and politicians have defended the Metropolitan Police Service from accusations that it is still “institutionally racist” 20 years after the death of Stephen Lawrence.

The Metropolitan Black Police Association (MBPA) had earlier claimed that the Met retained elements of racism – something that force was widely accused of through its handling of the Lawrence murder and a culmination of black men dying in custody and its stop and search approach.

However, Home Office minister Lord Taylor denied such claims, insisting the Met had improved.

“The government does not believe that the [Met] is institutionally racist”, he told peers.

“[It] has worked hard to improve relations with communities and the representatives of its workforce since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.”

Taylor mentioned the Met’s recent recruitment drive to hire more BME officers, the lord said the policy would “enhance the policing profession”. Nonetheless, he added that “there are too few” minorities at chief inspector rank or above.

He cited that currently there are 6,604 BME officers throughout the 43 forces across England and Wales – a figure which represents five per cent overall. However, when it comes to the higher ranks, BME officers only make up a total of 3.7 per cent, he revealed.

Conservative peer Lord Waddington also lent his support to the Met, and criticised the MBPA for being intrinsically hypocritical.

“Does this not come close to the pot calling the kettle black?” Waddington said, commenting on the MBPA’s racism accusation.

“What could be more institutionally racist than insisting on having a black police association?” the peer added.

Labour peer lord Clinton-Davis pointed out that the MBPA’s primary concern was with “the wholly disproportionate” numbers of BME people being stopped and searched by police. He questioned if any effective measures were being taken to address “this alleged situation”.

On the matter of recruiting more BME policemen and women, Taylor added that the Met’s policy was a separate issue from racism claims lingering from the Lawrence case.

“There is a review investigating allegations of conspiracy to cover up the (Stephen Lawrence) case, and we will take that review seriously”, he said.

“But it doesn't alter the fundamental strategy which is to try to make sure that the police numbers and the ethnic make-up of policing reflect the communities which they serve.”

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