Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ian Blair's Reforms Must Survive Him

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ian Blair's Reforms Must Survive Him

Article excerpt

I have never been a fan of Ian Blair, or any other police officer. Yet I have seen huge changes since his promotion, necessary ones, and have offered him my critical support. He, more than any of his predecessors at Scotland Yard, took on board the complaint that racism was being used as a weapon in policing the black and Asian communities.

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Previous commissioners would not budge on this issue. It took protests fired by intense violence for those in authority to yield to the demand for change. Blair's appointment as commissioner was a declaration that the old way of doing things had come to an end.

Blair has registered huge successes with the support of many of his men and women and, equally important, the black community. But he has made formidable enemies, too. As a consequence, he has had to live dangerously. The press regularly published negative reports originating from within his organisation. Senior black police officers promoted under his stewardship were accused of corruption. Witch-hunts undermined the authority of black policemen above the rank of sergeant. The wolves were already after him.

Blair's fate lay in the hands of his namesake, the former prime minister, whose support and approbation he desperately needed, faced as he was with this journalistic onslaught. The rise of suicide bombings from the Pakistani and Somali communities, trading under the banner of Islam, seemed to offer Blair a chance to restore his flagging authority. He allowed himself to be convinced that we were engaged in a war against terror and that his force would be in the vanguard. He was filmed going in and out of No 10 with an amazing regularity. In the heat of these moments, he wholeheartedly embraced the shoot-to-kill policy.

Commander Cressida Dick was sent to the Middle East to secure the expertise Blair thought was needed to carry out this deadly course of action. …

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