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Sadiq Khan: 'I'm impatient for more progress to be made'

PROGRESS: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is positive about the number of new BAME recruits to the Met but less so about the relationship between black communities and the police

THE MACPHERSON report is 20 years old today. To mark the milestone anniversary of the seminal document that deemed the Metropolitan Police Service institutionally racist and outlined 70 recommendations to address racial inequality, campaigners, politicians, members of the justice system and the public have been reflecting on the progress – or lack thereof – that’s been made since its publication.

The judicial inquiry which looked at how the Met dealt with the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation followed five years of persistent campaigning by the teenager’s parents Doreen and Neville.

While acknowledging the importance of the Macpherson report, mayor of London Sadiq Khan has highlighted the significance of the contributions of Stephen’s parents.

He told The Voice: “It’s important we give due respect to the Lawrence family for the work they did. The reason why these recommendations were made were because of the fantastic efforts of Doreen, the family, the campaigners and the lawyers and that led to this public inquiry taking place and led to the 70 recommendations being made.”

Like Baroness Lawrence and many racial justice and equality campaigners, the mayor of London agrees that in some ways the recommendations have not delivered the desired results.

He said: “Unfortunately, 20 years on, I don’t think we’ve made the progress we’d have hoped to have made when the report was published. Yes, nearly all the recommendations have been taken on board but it’s still the case in 2019 a black Londoner’s life chances aren’t as good as a white Londoner’s. It’s still the case that there are too many black, Asian, minority ethnic people involved in the criminal justice system, whether that’s in young offender institutions whether that’s in stop and search, whether that’s in prisons.”

The mayor has said he’s committed to improving the prospects for black Londoners and enabling them to achieve their potential, something that can help young people from becoming victims or perpetrators of violent crime and lift them out of poverty.

In addition to opening up access to opportunities for black Londoners, Khan said it’s important for efforts to be doubled to improve the relationship between the black community and the police, an area which remains fraught with tension. Black people are are almost nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people and face tougher treatment when caught with drugs in their possession, according to research.

He said: “I think all of us who had big hopes for massive progress 20 years ago haven’t quite seen the aspirations we had been realised. It’s still the case, and we’ve done surveys which confirm this, I’m afraid, that too many black Londoners haven’t got the trust and confidence in not just the police but others as well that they should have, it is a fact.”

Two decades on from the Macpherson report, which also looked at racial discrimination and its impact beyond policing, it’s understandable that campaigners are pushing for drastic changes to be made as soon as possible and Khan says he is also keen for more to be done.

“Lots of progress been made but I’m impatient for even more progress to be made as well,” he said.

He added: “What I want to achieve over the next three years is less inequalities. I want to see more black Londoners having their potential fulfilled.”

The challenges in achieving progress extend beyond changing attitudes, although efforts have been made to address this in the Met with unconscious bias training for all recruits. And Khan is proud to say that more than a quarter of new recruits to to Met are from BAME backgrounds but simultaneously argues this needs to be better.

Financial restrictions mean progress hasn’t been as fast as necessary, says the mayor, who has been criticised for not doing enough to tackle youth violence.

“Because of government austerity we’ve seen many of these services that London’s poorer communities rely upon cut,” Khan said.

He added: “It’s really important we have investment from the government in the absence of that we’re doing our best from City Hall but it’s difficult. I feel like I’ve got one hand tied behind my back.”

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