iNews: New figures on police racism complaints confirm a lack of accountability around an ingrained culture of racism


New data on complaints of racist conduct against police officers – as revealed by i – confirm what many activists and campaigners have believed for decades: that there is a lack of accountability around the police’s deep-seated culture of racism.

The failure to tackle this racist conduct and behaviour, alongside the ongoing over-policing and criminalisation of the Black community, is further evidence of the institutional racism which the Tony Sewell report failed to recognise.

Since the docking of the HMT Empire Windrush in 1948, at least three generations have been criminalised and traumatised by stop and search. Data collected over the decades shows that Black men are seven times more likely to be stopped and four times more likely to be arrested.

Tens of thousands of Black men have been emotionally traumatised by stop and search and wrongful detention by the police over the last half-century. Black People, Racism and Human Rights, a report launched in response to Black Lives Matter by the House of Commons and House of Lords joint committee on human rights, revealed the extent to which Black people’s human rights have been abused across a range of services, especially the NHS and the police.

Independent polling carried out for the report showed that over 85 per cent of Black people do not believe that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police.

The current processes and mechanisms in reviewing police conduct and behaviour need to be overhauled urgently, and require a new and independent body. We need to implement the Lammy Review to address the issue of over-representation of Black people in the Criminal Justice System, and the Angiolini review of serious incidents and deaths in police custody.

As a campaigner I have spoken to men over the years who still feel bitter and angry about being wrongfully convicted under the Sus laws (which allowed police to stop, search and arrest people based purely on a suspicion that they may go on to commit a crime). They were forced to rethink their lives and lower their aspirations, which has had a knock-on effect on their children and grandchildren.

We need a major independent case review so those who are now in their 40s, 50s and 60s can have their cases reviewed. Full apologies and restorative justice are essential. Finally, we need to abolish Section 60 of the Public Order Act – which allows police officers to stop and search someone without grounds for suspicion – and stop the extension of stop and search powers under the current Crime Bill.

We all recognise that stop and search is important, and is needed as a tool for the police to be effective in the war against serious crime and terrorism. However, there is a clear difference between strategically targeting known suspects and a blanket approach to young Black people.

Patrick Vernon OBE is a social commentator and Windrush Campaigner