Race issues persist ten years after Macpherson report say MPs

22 July 2009

On issues like stop and search and the DNA database, the situation involving race has worsened, and within the police’s own workforce racism still persists says a report published today by the Home Affairs Committee

On 22 April 1993, Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in South London in an unprovoked racist attack. The police were heavily criticised for their conduct of the investigation and no one has ever been convicted for the crime.

A Judicial Inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson was announced in July 1997. Its report, published on 24 February 1999, found that the police investigation into Stephen’s murder was "marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers."

The Committee says that since then police have made "tremendous strides" in the service they provide to ethnic minority communities and in countering racism amongst its own workforce. Sixty-seven of Macpherson’s 70 recommendations have been implemented fully or in part in the ten years since his report was published.

However, black communities in particular are disproportionately represented in stop and search statistics and on the National DNA Database and in fact the gap has increased since 1999. The Committee says the complex factors behind the over-representation of black people in the criminal justice system do not justify this level of disproportionality.

The Committee also expresses its disappointment that the police service will not meet its target to employ seven per cent of officers from ethnic minority communities nationally by 2009 and that black and minority ethnic officers continue to experience difficulties in achieving promotion, as well as being more likely to be subject to disciplinary procedures.

Chairman of the Committee Rt Hon Keith Vaz said:

"We congratulate the police on the strides they have made in tackling the institutional racism identified by the Macpherson report ten years ago.

"However, while there is such blatantly disproportionate representation of particularly black people in the criminal justice system – in the use of stop and search or on the DNA database - there will continue to be damage to community relations which in turn undermine police work.

"Any gains made by the use of stop and search, which we know can be very useful, risk being offset by its impact on community relations.

"We are also particularly concerned at the discrimination which apparently persists within the force, in recruitment and promotion of black and minority ethnic officers. The police service must now focus its efforts on tackling these issues within its own workforce."

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