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Police: Race Relations Policies

Volume 736: debated on Monday 30 April 2012


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will encourage HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to undertake a thematic review of race relations policies within police forces in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, the Government take recent allegations of police racism very seriously. The firm actions taken by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police are exactly those that we would expect other service leaders to take if faced with similar issues. We do not believe that a thematic inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary is necessary at this stage.

I thank the noble Lord for his reply. He will recall that on 29 November he assured the House that there was no racism in the police force. Circumstances have shown that he was wrong. Will he consider again encouraging the police force to begin racism awareness training among the constabulary? We need to get rid of the Aryan myth of white superiority once and for all and I believe that it is necessary that we should all understand what that is.

The Commissioner’s statements were very encouraging. Is the Minister able to arrange a meeting between those of us who are very interested in this subject and the commissioner so that we can explain to him what is really meant by institutional racism and the recommendations in Macpherson can be acted on?

My Lords, I owe the noble Baroness an apology if I suggested that there was no racism within the Metropolitan Police. It is obviously wrong to suggest that any organisation has no racism within it. What I was trying to get over on that occasion, and on the two occasions last week when I dealt with questions of this sort, was that institutional racism within the Met has largely been dealt with. It was encouraging that the most recent cases of racism were reported by the police themselves and therefore this was a strong sign that these matters were being dealt with.

I would be more than happy to assist in arranging a meeting between the noble Baroness and others and either the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, whomever she considers the most appropriate person to deal with these matters. Meanwhile, as I made clear on the Question from my noble friend Lord Sheikh and the Statement that I made on another occasion when I believe the noble Baroness was present, I believe that the Met is making considerable strides in this area.

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the wider police service must show great vigilance and endeavour to respond well to race and diversity issues? They must not become complacent and somehow see race as yesterday's problem or yesterday’s issue. This is an ongoing challenge that the service must respond to well at all times.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, with his great experience, is absolutely correct to express those points. I fully agree with him. I remind him and the House that an important part of the regular reviews by HMIC—the inspectorate of the constabulary—is that any force inspections should always include some detail of an assessment of equality, diversity and those matters.

My Lords, at least 27 police officers are under investigation for racist behaviour. The noble Baroness, Lady Howells, is rightly concerned about that. She has done a tremendous amount of work following the death of Stephen Lawrence on the adversarial contact between the black community and the police. While we appreciate the action taken by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is it not right that we should have a thematic inspection of racial issue policies, particularly in relation to training, recruitment and retention, bearing in mind that the cuts to police expenditure are likely to impinge on these areas?

My Lords, I am grateful for the question from my noble friend Lord Dholakia. I stress that I did not rule out a thematic review—I just said that I did not think it necessarily appropriate at this stage. I can assure my noble friend that there have been thematic reviews in the past. If necessary, that could be looked at again. I repeat the important point in the answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Condon, that this is already part of any inspection of the police force. Also, on the very unfortunate recent cases that have appeared in the Met, the great thing is that such cases are at least being reported by their fellow police officers. That is a sign that something is being done. It is progress.

Does the Minister agree that, over the years, training of the police on racism has improved dramatically but there is a real problem when they then finish their training and join forces which are not representative of the diversity of this country? Should we not put all the emphasis on recruitment and retention of people from across the range so that our police forces represent this country? In that way, you would do far more to resist racism in a force than you would simply in the classroom alone.

My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Lord. Training is very important but it is also important to make sure that recruitment and retention continue so that all police forces can represent the appropriate diversity of their individual areas. That is the important thing: to make sure that they can then continue to police their area with the proper consent of those being policed.

My Lords, in the current atmosphere of Islamophobia, could we have an assurance that race includes religion? It seems to me that Muslims are becoming disproportionately targeted. They are of many races and can come in all colours and shades, but because of their religion they are being singled out.

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very valid point and one that I am sure is taken into account in initial and all further ongoing training.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that successive Governments, probably over the last 40 years, have found it extremely difficult to recruit the maximum number of officers from among ethnic minorities? Can he assure the House that the greatest effort will be made and the heaviest emphasis placed upon this crucial factor?

My Lords, I can say that great progress has been made over the last 40, 30, 20 and even 10 years on increasing the diversity of the police force so that it better represents the areas that it covers. That will obviously vary from Wales to the Met. I can also tell the noble Lord—and this is important—that the figures from black and ethnic minority communities on their satisfaction and confidence in our police forces seem very similar to figures from white communities.