Kushnick (1999) '"Over Policed and Under Protected": Stephen
Lawrence, Institutional and Police Practices'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 1, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/1/kushnick.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 23/03/99 Accepted: 23/03/99 Published: 31/3/99
There is no doubt but that there were fundamental errors. The investigation was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers. (Macpherson, 1999, ¶46.1, p. 317)
Wherever we went we were met with inescapable evidence which highlighted the lack of trust which exists between the police and the minority ethnic communities. At every location there was a striking difference between the positive descriptions of policy initiatives by senior police officers, and the negative expressions of the minority communities, who clearly felt themselves to be discriminated against by the police and others. We were left in no doubt that the contrast between these views and expressions reflected a central problem which needs to be addressed. (Macpherson, 1999, ¶45.6, p. 311)
If, by (institutionally racist) it is meant that it (Britain) is a society which, knowingly, as a matter of policy, discriminates against black people, I reject the allegation. If, however, the suggestion being made is that practices may be adopted by public bodies as well as private individuals which are unwittingly discriminatory against black people, then this is an allegation which deserves serious consideration, and ,where proved, swift remedy. (Scarman, 1981, ¶2.22, p. 11)
And he also rejected charges that the Metropolitan Police were racist:
The direction and policies of the Metropolitan Police are not racist. I totally and unequivocally reject the attack made upon the integrity and impartiality of the senior direction of the force. The criticisms lie elsewhere - in errors of judgment, in a lack of imagination and flexibility, but not in deliberate bias or prejudice. (Scarman, 1981, ¶4.62, p. 64)
The failure of the first investigating team to recognise and accept racism and race relations as a central feature of their investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence played a part in the deficiencies in policing which we identify in this Report. For example, a substantial number of officers of junior rank would not accept that the murder of Stephen Lawrence was simply and solely 'racially motivated'. The relevance of the ethnicity and cultural status of the victims, including Duwayne Brooks, and Mr and Mrs Lawrence, was not properly recognised. Immediately after the murder Mr Brooks was side-lined, and his vital information was inadequately considered. None of these shortcomings was corrected or overcome. (Macpherson, 1999, ¶6.21, p. 23)
There is an overwhelming body of evidence to support the proposition that black communities in Britain are subject to a differential and discriminatory pattern of policing which has two effects. First, it serves to stereotype whole sections of the black community, especially young people, as involved or potentially involved in criminal activities ranging from street robbery (so-called 'mugging') and drug dealing through to violent public disorder. Secondly, because of its focus on supposed black criminality, policing in the black community tends to downplay the position of black people as victims of crime and those types of criminal activity (e.g., violent and racist assaults) which most adversely affect them. (Institute of Race Relations, 1999a, p. 1)
- in the actual investigation including the family's treatment at the hospital, the initial reaction to the victim and witness Duwayne Brooks, the family liaison, the failure of many officers to recognise Stephen's murder as a purely 'racially motivated' crime, the lack or urgency and commitment in some areas of the investigation.
- countrywide in the disparity of 'stop and search figures'. Whilst we acknowledge and recognise the complexity of this issue and in particular the other factors which can be prayed in aid to explain the disparities, such as demographic mix, school exclusions, unemployment, and recording procedures, there remains, in our judgment, a clear core conclusion of racist stereotyping;
- countrywide in the significant under-reporting of 'racial incidents' occasioned largely by lack of confidence in the police and their perceived unwillingness to take such incidents seriously. Again we are conscious of other factors at play, but we find irresistible the conclusion that a core cause of under-reporting is the inadequate response of the Police Service which generates a lack of confidence in victims to report incidents; and
- in the identified failure of police training; as evidenced by the HMIC Report, 'Winning the Race' and the Police Training Council Report, and the clear evidence in Part 1 of this Inquiry which demonstrated not a single officer questioned before us in 1998 had received any training of significance in racism awareness and race relations throughout the course of his or her career. (Macpherson, 1999, ¶6.45, pp. 29-30)
The Report argues that
Racism, institutional or otherwise, is not the prerogative of the Police Service. It is clear that other agencies including for example those dealing with housing and education also suffer from the disease. If racism is to be eradicated there must be specific and co-ordinated action both within the agencies themselves and by society at large, particularly through the education system, from primary school upwards and onwards. (Macpherson, 1999, ¶6.54, p. 33)
All this evidence suggests that arrest and police powers are now being used to keep the black community in its place: physically, by penalizing blacks found out of their 'ghettoes', and psychologically, by penalizing those who attempt to demand their rights or protect another's. (Institute of Race Relations, 1979, p. 44)
|White People||'Ethnic Origin'|
In some areas the proportion of blacks being stopped and searched, as opposed to any other ethnic group, is at an unacceptable level. These figures confirm what black people have known for some time, i.e. that they are being targeted by the Police. There is a concern that we are seeing the return of the old 'sus laws' which were repealed in the early eighties, and which led to the very serious distrust between the Police and the black community. This concern is greater because of the enhanced Stop and Search Powers contained in the Criminal Justice Act. (Statewatch, 1995: p. 20)
There is little evidence from these statistics that the widespread use of police powers on the streets is leading to higher numbers being formally processed through the criminal justice system. Yet there is considerable evidence of the differential use of the powers to back the widely held belief that there is institutional racism within the police.
Moreover, the evidence from this survey shows that the problem of institutionalised racism pervades the criminal justice system extending to the roles played by HMIC (Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary), the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the Police Complaints Authority and the Home Office. Each bears responsibility for the failure to tackle racism since the 1981 uprisings and the Scarman report. (Statewatch, 1999: p. 2)
The evidence points to discriminatory views held by police officers, prison officers and immigration service officials which are motivated by racial/ethnic stereotypes - the linking of Irish people with drunkenness and Black people with superhuman strength and violence. (Inquest, 1996; p. 9; it is significant that the justification used by the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King - and accepted by the 11 white/1 Asian-American jury which acquitted them - was the need to use such force because of King's superhuman strength)
The evidence which emerged at the inquest established that Alton Manning died a brutal, inhuman and violent death as a direct result of the unlawful and excessive violence used against him by prison officers and yet nobody is to be held criminally responsible or indeed accountable for this appalling death. This decision once again brings the entire criminal justice system and the role of the CPS into disrepute. When is the Government going to act so that when someone dies at the hands of the State the procedures that follow ensure accountability, openness and justice? The failure of the current system denies bereaved families justice and sends a clear message that Black deaths in custody do not matter. (Inquest, 1999: p. 4)
A 1994 poll of black people carried out by a British black newspaper found that 67% of people knew some one who had experienced physical abuse by a police officer; 40% had personally experienced racial abuse from an officer and 78% believed that police treated a crime in which the victim was white more seriously than one with a black victim. A 1995 study by Oxford University of prison inmates, found that that over a three month period, half of all African and African-Caribbean prisoners and one-third of Asian prisoners had been racially victimised by staff; 64% of black inmates said they had witnessed an average of 8 incidents over the same period. For black people, the power that prison officers and policemen hold over them can have devastating effect. Between 1991 and 1995, 10 black people died in custody in incidents where excessive force appears to have been used. So far, no officer has been punished for any of these deaths. (Institute of Race Relations, 1999b: p. 1)
The Inspector concludes on the basis of these figures:
There was little evidence of any significant response to these issues, and much to suggest that the rich seam of experience and enthusiasm of ethnic minority officers is not being utilised to inform recruitment and retention strategies. (HMIC, 1998: P. 45)
... I always stayed out of that because I was drained, drained. It's like being drained daily because of all these incidents. They did take their toll. I tended to keep most to myself because of these incidents and reports kept coming in, 'He's not socialising.' They expected me to socialise. With these reports coming in, these remarks being made, how can you socialise? No matter how hard or strong you are it does affect you, especially when you have to come there every day, and work with your colleagues, with other people. (Holdaway, 1996: p. 166)
The important exceptions are:
The Met is always handing out glossy leaflets on new new equal opportunities policies but they might as well be binned. (Blackman and Alford, 1996: p. 11)
Virtually all the volunteer respondents contributed suggestions when asked if there were any improvements they would like to see in policies and procedures at South Yorkshire Police. Two recurrent themes were that the existing policies and procedures were satisfactory but that they should be fully and consistently implemented and that supervisors and managers should be more fully trained in these policies and procedures and in inter-personal skills. (Police Federation, 1996, ¶105)
This Inquiry offers a unique opportunity to make a difference; not only with the MPS and its failings, but for all our institutions ... there should be coherence across all institutions and organisations as part of a national framework for change. Without this any change would be merely piecemeal, limited, and unlikely to be long-lasting. (Macpherson, 1999, ¶6.39, p. 29)
3. The strength of criticism from within the police service, and from police authorities, has proved too formidable....I had occasion to address the Annual Conference of the Police Federation of England and Wales and was left in no doubt of the unanimous opposition of the delegates to the proposal. Their views are intense and deep-seated. At the Board itself ... the proposal was strongly criticised by all the bodies present, including the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations as well as the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. ...
4. Themain points made by and on behalf of the police service was that members of that service make a declaration upon appointment that they will serve the Queen in the office of constable 'without favour' and that to have a specific provision in the code about racial discrimination would be to pick out the service in such a way as to put a slur upon it. If any acts of discrimination should occur they were already covered by one or other of the provisions of the existing code. (C (68) 122, 1968, p. 1)
5. We originally thought that the proposal would have a presentational advantage in that it could be used to counter any Parliamentary criticism of the fact that the Bill did not cover the police in their operational role. In the event, this issue was not raised in either House. There is no evidence for any enthusiasm for the proposal on the part of the immigrant organisations. (C (68) 122, 1968, p. 2)
6. ... If I were to proceed notwithstanding the unanimous advice of the representatives of the service and of the police authorities on the Police Advisory Board, there is no doubt that there would be very great resentment in the lower ranks of the service, a considerable outcry by them and strong opposition in Parliament at a time when, as the events on 27th October showed, we are dependent on the loyalty of the police in dealing with manifestations of civil unrest, both racial and general. (C (68) 122, 1968, p. 2)
... not referring to the lynch mob that knifed Stephen Lawrence but to that conservative judge Sir William Macpherson: 'His report is appallingly patronising towards the police. ... their canteen culture is constantly disparaged. ... It is already reported by front-line officers on patrol last night that black youths were taunting them saying they would not be able to arrest them now. There will be more and more of that, and worse. Middle England has been slow to wake up to what is happening. ... [The report] represents an attempt, inspired by the worst excesses of American academe, to make life intolerable for the defenders of bourgeois democracy. (Toynbee, 1999: p. 20)
Racism should become a major focus of school discipline, 'anti-bullying' and 'anti-exclusions' policies. Teachers and school governors should receive training on the role of racism in attacks and harassment on black pupils and in their treatment by teachers and others in authority over them. There should be regular consultations on these issues between schools and black community groups. Similar policies need to be adopted in respect of other social agencies such as youth workers and youth groups, social services, and the probation service. (Institute of Race Relations, 1999a, p. 2) 67. That consideration be given to amendment of the National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order to better reflect the needs of a diverse society.
68. That Local Education Authorities and school Governors have the duty to create and implement strategies in their schools to prevent and address racism. Such strategies to include:
- that schools record all racist incidents;
- that all recorded incidents are reported to the pupils' parents/guardians, school Governors and LEAs;
- that the numbers of racist incidents are published annually, on a school by school basis; and
- that the numbers and self defined ethnic identity of 'excluded' pupils are published annually on a school by school basis.
69. That OFSTED inspections include examination of the implementation of such stratgies.
70. That in creating strategies under the provisions of the Crime & Disorder Act or otherwise Police Services, local Government and relevant agencies should specifically consider implementing community and local initiatives aimed at promoting cultural diversity and addressing racism and the need for focused, consistent support for such initiatives. (Macpherson, 1999, Recommendations, pp. 334-335)
2Chevigny reports on the findings of the Christopher Commission (investigating the Los Angeles Police Department) and of the Kolts Commission (investigating the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department at the same time as the Christopher Commission was sitting). He quotes their findings that there were fundamental failures of internal discipline and of prosecutions to control police brutality to such an extent that the city of Los Angeles paid more than $20 million just for the excessive-force cases involving the LAPD that the Christopher Commission was able to trace between January 1986 and 1990. The county was found to have paid more than $15 million between January 1989-May 1992 for excessive-force cases involving the LASD (Chevigny, 1995, 52-53).
3See report in The Observer, 21 March 1999: p. 4 - 'Police told to re-open 25 racist murder cases'.
CAMPBELL, DUNCAN (1966) 'Police Criticised for Tip-Offs to Media on Raids and Arrests', The Guardian, 4 July, p. 5.
CHEVIGNY, Paul (1995) Edge of the Knife: Police Violence in the Americas. New York: New Press.
COMMISSION FOR RACIAL EQUALITY (1996), Race and Equal Opportunities in the Police Service: A Programme for Action. London: CRE.
HALL, STUART, CHAS CRITCHER, TONY JEFFERSON, JOHN CLARKE and BRIAN ROBERTS (1978) Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. London: Macmillan.
HM INSPECTORATE OF CONSTABULARY (1996) Developing Diversity in the Police Service: Equal Opportunities Thematic Inspection Report. London: Home Office.
HM INSPECTORATE OF CONSTABULARY (1998) Winning the Race, Policing Plural Communities: Revisited. London: Home Office.
HOLDAWAY, SIMON (1996) The Racialisation of British Policing. London, Macmillan.
HOOLEY, PETER and AUSTIN, HAL (1999) 'Police Told to Re-Open 25 Racist Murder Cases', The Observer, 21 March, p. 4.
INQUEST, (1999), Briefing: The Death in Prison of Alton Manning 1995. London
INSTITUTE OF RACE RELATIONS, (1979), Police Against Black People. London: IRR (Reprinted in Policing Against Black People)
INSTITUTE OF RACE RELATIONS (1991) Deadly Silence: Black Deaths in Custody. London: IRR.
INSTITUTE OF RACE RELATIONS (1999a) Online Resources: Institute of Race Relations Evidence, Submitted for Part 2 of the Inquiry into Matters Arising from the Death of Stephen Lawrence <http://www.homebeats.co.uk/resources/lawrence.htm>
INSTITUTE OF RACE RELATIONS (1999b) Online Resources: The Criminal Justice System. <http://www.homebeats.co.uk/racism/justice.htm>
MACPHERSON OF CLUNY, Sir William (1999) The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny. London: The Stationery Office; <http://www.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm42/4262/4262.htm>.
OAKLEY, ROBIN (1996) Race and Equal Opportunities in the Police Service. London: Commission for Racial Equality.
POLICE FEDERATION (1996) Report by the Police Federation and Trade Unions of the South Yorkshire Police into Allegations of Bullying and Racial and Sexual Harassment Contained within the Hobbs Report into Equal Opportunities in South Yorkshire Police. Sheffield: Police Federation South Yorkshire Police.
SCARMAN, Lord (1981) The Brixton Disorders, 10-12 April 1981, Report of an Inquiry. London: HMSO, Cmnd 8427.
STATEWATCH (1995) 'Policing the Streets: The Use and Abuse of Police Powers', vol. 5, no. 4.
STATEWATCH (1996a) 'UK: Police Stop and Search', vol. 6, no. 2, p. 1.
STATEWATCH (1996b) 'Black Man Awarded £302,000', vol. 6, no. 3, p. 3.
STATEWATCH (1999) 'The Cycle of UK Racism: Stop and Search, Arrest and Imprisonment', vol. 9, no. 1.
TOYNBEE, POLLY (1999) 'The White Backlash', The Guardian, 3 March, p. 20.
TRAVIS, ALAN (1996) 'Street Arrests up 15%', The Guardian, 29 June, p. 12.
VIRDEE, SATNAM (1995) Racial Violence and Harassment. London: Policy Studies Institute.