Why the Met Faces a Crisis over Race: Black Officers Are Close to the Most Dramatic Police Protest since the Strikes of 1919. Yet the Top Brass Were Committed to Anti-Racism. What Has Gone Wrong?

By Cohen, Nick | New Statesman (1996), December 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Why the Met Faces a Crisis over Race: Black Officers Are Close to the Most Dramatic Police Protest since the Strikes of 1919. Yet the Top Brass Were Committed to Anti-Racism. What Has Gone Wrong?


Cohen, Nick, New Statesman (1996)


Unless there are concessions from the top brass of London's Metropolitan Police, the following scene will occur at some point next spring. Black and Asian police officers will assemble near parliament. They won't be protecting ministries from demonstrators, but will be demonstrating themselves. As they march on New Scotland Yard, the protesters will tell the television cameras--and I think I can guarantee that the cameras will be there--that on no account should the city's ethnic minorities think of joining the Met. If the), do, the odds are they will be disciplined rather than commended and will leave the force after a few months or years, bitterly regretting their decision to have anything to do with the cops.

The lines of policemen and policewomen kitted out in full uniform and parading in Westminster would be a great spectacle. I don't think there has been anything like it since the police strikes just after the First World War. The protest almost happened in October, just before the Met was forced to pay a six-figure sum in compensation to Chief Inspector Leroy Logan. He was a distinguished black officer who had been heaped with commendations. In 2001, he was awarded an MBE. Dr Richard Stone, an adviser to the Macpherson inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, described him as "the sort of police officer who all of us who are supportive of high-quality policing would like to meet". None the less, Logan was the subject of a formidable anti-corruption investigation that took five months and cost "hundreds. thousands of pounds", according to Logan's solicitor.

The alleged crime was that Logan had claimed an 80 [pounds sterling] hotel bill on expenses when he was not entitled to do so. He was, as it turned out. He and his allies suspect that his real offence was to have supported Superintedent All Dizaei, whose prosecution by the Met has helped poison race relations in the force. The investigation into Dizaei cost millions of pounds rather than hundreds of thousands. All the money and the warrants for phone taps that were thrown at the case were for nothing. After two failed attempts to prosecute him at the Old Bailey, Dizaei will return to work on 1 December with his integrity intact.

The Metropolitan Black Police Association is already refusing to co-operate with recruitment drives in London. Given that every senior officer and home secretary has been saying for years that the police need more officers from the UK's ethnic minorities, the boycott is already a minor embarrassment. A lid is being kept on the major embarrassment of public protests for the time being. Black officers are waiting to see the responses of the Met and the Metropolitan Police Authority to a dossier of allegations of racial discrimination before taking the nuclear option. The dossier names names, it is meticulous in every respect, and to the casual onlooker it is utterly mystifying.

Ever since the Met and other forces accepted the finding of the Macpherson report, published in 1999, that the police were institutionally racist, the politically correct police constable has been a guaranteed space-filler for the conservative press on slow news days. Sir William Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie, 27th chief of the Clan Macpherson, former member of the SAS and keen golfer, has been cast in the unlikely role of New Statesman-reading radical. He is meant to have turned the police from enforcers of the law into guilt-ridden social workers who are more concerned to avoid offending the overdeveloped sensibilities of minorities trapped in victim cultures than to stop and catch villains. In a editorial that is typical of hundreds in the cuttings files, the Sunday Express cried that "Police officers are so terrified of being labelled racist, the deliberately avoid questioning black suspects during routine patrols." The Telegraph accused Sir William of having "blood on his hands". Because of him, the men of violence were stalking the streets of Britain unchecked.

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