Magazine article The Spectator

Not Black and White

Magazine article The Spectator

Not Black and White

Article excerpt

John Donne would have been especially right about Stephen Lawrence. `Any man's death diminishes me', and especially the death of a teenager, foully murdered. The Lawrences, too, were right: right to vent their grief and anger, to force the rest of us to take notice, to ensure that their son's death did not become merely another number in the murder statistics.

But there comes a moment when grief and anger must give way to hard thinking. That should have happened with Sir William Macpherson's report; instead, Sir William has allowed himself to be swept away by emotion and to be manipulated by those who have no interest in good policing or harmonious race relations and who would like to turn Sir Paul Condon into a sacrificial victim.

The police's handling of the Lawrence murder was appallingly inept. It does not follow, however, that this ineptitude sprang from racism, conscious or otherwise. There is no evidence to suggest that whites who commit serious assaults on blacks are more likely to avoid conviction than are blacks who commit serious assaults on whites.

But as most Londoners who have ever been burgled could testify, if any defect is 'institutionalised' in the Metropolitan Police, it is incompetence. Since 1979, the police have been the beneficiaries of substantial increases in public expenditure. The public have not benefited from substantial improvements in police performance.

The police in London have another problem which is even graver than inefficiency: corruption. Perpetrators of crime sometimes escape prosecution because they, or people close to them, have friends in the police force. This state of affairs is especially associated with drug dealing. If Sir Paul Condon could fairly be accused of tolerating either inefficiency or corruption, he should not resign: he should be dismissed. On the contrary, however: Sir Paul has been striving to ensure that Londoners will eventually have the police force they need, and pay for. He should be praised for this, and for his determination to protect his police force from lies and slanders.

Sir Paul has not been guilty of a failure of leadership. That charge would be much better directed against many black so-called community leaders, who refuse to face up to the problem of crime among young black males, and who often talk as if the guilt lies, not with the criminals, but with the police who arrest them. There is nothing in the Macpherson report to encourage black leaders to confront the criminal elements in their communities. …

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