Britain's racist police force


By Danny Milson

LONDON — No police officer will face serious disciplinary action after the bungled murder investigation of a black teenager in East London.

Stephen Lawrence was still at high school when he was murdered in 1993 by a gang of racist youths who chanted "What, what nigger?" as they delivered the fatal knife stab.

Lawrence's attackers have never been brought to justice. Despite an eyewitness description of the attackers, the police assumed because Stephen was black that it must have been gangland related. The eyewitness, who was also black, was said to be making up a story about white racists.

The police failed to pursue the racist connection, despite the five murder suspects having been identified by a national newspaper and covertly videoed using extremely racist language.

A public enquiry into the failed police investigation toured the country collecting evidence of racism within the police force. Police considered the enquiry head, Lord Macpherson of Cluny, a "safe" choice who would provide a non-critical report.

Instead, after months of hearing evidence, Macpherson concluded that racist assumptions and beliefs were central to why the police failed to pursue reasonable lines of enquiry. Macpherson stated that the investigation into Lawrence's murder was "deeply flawed" and, far from being an isolated incident, was an example of the "institutionalised racism" in the police force in London.

Since the conclusion of the enquiry six months ago, Stephen Lawrence's parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence, have spoken at meetings all over the country, bringing attention to police racism.

Neville Lawrence has become a folk hero to young black people for his persistence and courage in pursuing police racism. Young black men are six times as likely to be stopped and searched by the police as white men of the same age.

For whites, the enquiry has revealed more and more detail about the harassment, abuse and victimisation that black people suffer. Even tabloid newspapers now make jokes about how racist the police are.

All but one of the officers responsible for the investigation into Lawrence's death have now resigned, thereby protecting themselves from disciplinary proceedings. They are currently receiving a full police pension of about £20,000 a year.

The only officer who did face a disciplinary tribunal, Detective Inspector Ben Bullock, was acquitted on July 13 of 26 of 28 charges. He was convicted of two minor offences, for which he is not expected to be punished. The tribunal was held in private and was chaired by a serving police officer.