Institutionalized Racism in England & Wales

By Kinchin, David | Law & Order, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Institutionalized Racism in England & Wales


Kinchin, David, Law & Order


Following the case of the black youth Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in London six years ago, the police forces of England and Wales have been under heavy scrutiny as senior officers look for instances of racism.

Nobody was ever found guilty of the murder and the Lawrence family insists that this was because the police service is racist and did not investigate the incident correctly. Much of what the family has stated has been supported by a full inquiry into the incident.

The highest ranking officer in the country, Sir Paul Condon, confirmed that his force suffered from institutionalized racism. Condon retires at the end of the year and was under considerable pressure to resign his position following the report into the Lawrence murder inquiry.

Police officers around the country shook their heads in disbelief at the statements that were read at numerous press conferences. Nevertheless, officers are now desperate to prove that neither they nor their police force is racist.

For some time, police forces have been keen to recruit officers from minority groups, and equally as keen to see those officers gain promotion once they have been selected. But this has proved to be an extremely slow process and all but four UK police forces have failed to recruit from minority groups in sufficient numbers to become representative of the community they serve.

In Gwent, south Wales, the force has managed to recruit 13 officers from ethnic minority groups. As the population within the Gwent police area only has 1.06% of its population with an ethnic background this has proved quite an easy task and is statistically insignificant. In major cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester where ethnic groups make up a larger section of the population, trying to recruit officers from those ethnic groups is proving to be quite problematical.

Currently, there are 124,000 police officers in England and Wales. Of those, only 2,500 are from ethnic groups, equating to just 2% of police officers. However, over 6% of the population are of minority ethnic groups, so the number of police officers from these groups needs to more than triple for the population to be truly reflected in the officers who serve them.

The population of England and Wales includes a significant number of people with Caribbean, African, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese origins. These are the six main groups that form the ethnic minority (E.M.) groups the Home Office are keen to recruit to the police force. …

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