Awareness of Race Not the Same as Racism; Banter across the Canteen Table Is One Thing; the Officer at Work, Enforcing the Law with Impartiality, Must Be Seen to Have Left Any Prejudices Behind. We Must Use Common Sense over Questions of Ethnic Groupings and Crime, Says Dennis Ellam

By Ellam, Dennis | The Birmingham Post (England), October 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

Awareness of Race Not the Same as Racism; Banter across the Canteen Table Is One Thing; the Officer at Work, Enforcing the Law with Impartiality, Must Be Seen to Have Left Any Prejudices Behind. We Must Use Common Sense over Questions of Ethnic Groupings and Crime, Says Dennis Ellam


Ellam, Dennis, The Birmingham Post (England)


If I were a police officer serving in Manchester, today, I would be dismayed and disillusioned by the opinion offered from the city's chief constable, Mr David Wilmot, that "institutionalised racism" exists in his force.

He cannot mean what he says, of course.

The phrase has undergone much devaluation since it has been freely bandied about in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry; if racism has truly become an integral feature of the institution which Mr Wilmot leads, then the only honourable thing for him to do woul d be to resign now.

More likely, he meant to say that racism continues to exist among some individuals in the Greater Manchester force, not with the approval of the institution but in defiance of its best efforts to isolate them.

All the same, if I were one of Mr Wilmot's officers I would ask myself whether I could have the fullest confidence any more in a commander who has so publicly made clear his lack of faith in me and my colleagues.

I might wonder, in fact, whether the chief constable has fallen into that trap which is so deftly prepared by seltyled equality campaigners and their left-wing political allies, and which has been sprung several times during the frequently hostile heari ngs into the black youth Stephen Lawrence's murder.

It is to their advantage, to see that racism is confused with raciawareness.

We might abhor the former, but as experience has shown elsewhere in the world, certainly in the USA, we would risk a grave weakening of our social order if we tried to pretend that the latter should never apply.

Racism which exists in the police force, so both Mr Wilmot and the Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Paul Condon seem to be agreed, is a reflection of racism in the wider society.

In that case, they are right to seek it out and remove it. What is unacceptable in civilian life is absolutely intolerable in a police force which is meant to serve all law-abiding civilians, irrespective of race, colour or religion.

The highest standards must rightly be expected of a police officer in the fulfilment of his duties, and those duties can only be corrupted or hampered by a racist outlook.

Banter across the canteen table is one thing; the officer at work, enforcing the law with impartiality, must be seen to have left any prejudices behind.

Raciawareness is a different matter entirely. Indeed, in some aspects of policing modern Britain, especially the streets of a big city, it is an essential tool of enforcement, uncomfortable though some campaigners might be at the prospect.

A controversial report into street muggings in London revealed that of 22,000 such crimes, during a 12-month period, 80 per cent were carried out by young blacks. …

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Awareness of Race Not the Same as Racism; Banter across the Canteen Table Is One Thing; the Officer at Work, Enforcing the Law with Impartiality, Must Be Seen to Have Left Any Prejudices Behind. We Must Use Common Sense over Questions of Ethnic Groupings and Crime, Says Dennis Ellam
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