some default text...
The Macpherson Report - Ten Years On - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Macpherson Report—Ten Years On



Background

1. On 22 April 1993, Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in South London in an unprovoked, racist attack. The police were heavily criticised for their conduct of the investigation and no one has ever been convicted for the crime. After years of campaigning by Stephen's parents, the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced a Judicial Inquiry in July 1997 to be led by Sir William Macpherson. The Macpherson Report, published on 24 February 1999, found that the police investigation into Stephen's murder was "marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers."[1] While the inquiry focused on the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the report concluded that "institutional racism affects the MPS, and police services elsewhere."[2] Sir William made 70 recommendations aimed at "the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing."[3]

2. This year, 2009, marks the tenth anniversary of the report's publication. We decided it was therefore an opportune moment to consider progress that has been made to tackle racism in the police during those ten years. To this end we took evidence on 28 April 2009 from Stephen's mother and the founder of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Mrs Doreen Lawrence; the Chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, Mr Alfred John; the Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips; Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rod Jarman of the Metropolitan Police; and the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead for race and diversity, Chief Constable Stephen Otter. We also received written evidence from Duwayne Brooks, who was with Stephen Lawrence on the night he was murdered, and the Home Office.

Progress

3. All witnesses recognised that the police service had made progress towards tackling racial prejudice and discrimination since 1999.[4] The Home Office told us that 67 of Macpherson's 70 recommendations have been implemented fully or in part.[5] Tribute was paid to the work undertaken by senior officers to ensure greater awareness of race as an issue throughout the service. Mr Phillips explained the impact of the Macpherson Report on police leadership:

The use of the term "institutional racism" … was absolutely critical in shaking police forces up and down the country out of their complacency. The consequence of that has been that police forces have paid a lot of attention; they have put a lot of resources in.[6]

Measures to effect a cultural change in the Metropolitan Police Service have included the establishment of the Hydra Leadership Academy,[7] the Diversity Excellence Model, the Diversity Crime Survey, the introduction of the Cultural and Communities Resource Unit and the introduction of the Staff Associations Meeting Up and Interacting.[8]

4. This cultural shift has undoubtedly led to improvements in the way in which the police interact with ethnic minority communities, coupled with the adoption of many of Macpherson's specific recommendations about the investigation of crimes. For example, his report recommended that racist incidents should be defined as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person" and that this definition should be universally adopted by the police, local government and other relevant agencies.[9] Police witnesses noted that, as a result of these changes, reporting of hate crimes has increased to around 60,000 incidents a year (compared with 9,000 across the whole of the United States) and the hate crime detection rate has doubled to about 44%.[10] The Equalities and Human Rights Commission report Police and Racism: What has been achieved 10 years after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report? cited the case of murdered black student Anthony Walker as an example of the improvement of the investigation of race crimes.[11]

5. Duwayne Brooks also highlighted the introduction of appropriately trained Family Liaison Officers in critical incidents, as recommended by Macpherson, as an important area of progress.[12] Police witnesses cited this as key to improving homicide detection rates, which currently stand at 90%, the highest of any large city in the world:

based upon the changes that have happened in the last ten years … based upon family liaison officers being effective at maintaining relationships with families, at getting the evidence that is required and keeping people on side."[13]

Chief Constable Otter argued that these improvements have resulted in increasing confidence levels in black communities, which now mirror confidence levels in white communities nationally.[14]

Areas of concern

6. However, there are a number of areas in which the police service continues to fail ethnic minorities. Mr Phillips argued that "there is still a major problem to deal with in relation to stop and search".[15] In 1999, a black person was six times more likely to be stopped and searched under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; in 2006/07 it was seven times.[16] The National DNA Database (NDNAD), which currently retains all DNA samples from anyone arrested, is also "massively and hugely discriminatory".[17] The Equalities and Human Rights Commission estimates that over 30% of all black men are on the database compared with about 10% of all Asian men and 10% of all white men.[18]

7. Clearly, these issues of disproportionality relate to the over-representation of black people in the criminal justice system, itself a highly complex problem. In our previous Report into Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, which explored these matters in detail, we recommended that "strategies for the use of Stop and Search should explicitly recognise the balance that needs to be struck between use of the power to prevent or detect crime and the negative impact its use has on public co-operation with, and support for, the police."[19] We also recommended that "the Government should conduct a study to determine the implications of the presence of such a high proportion of the black male population on the National DNA Database".[20] The Government has subsequently undertaken an equality impact assessment, which found that any bias in proportionality is "likely to result from over-representation in the CJS [Criminal Justice System] as a whole and is not the result of inherent bias in NDNAD processes."[21]

8. At the Macpherson Inquiry, Mrs Lawrence raised concerns about the way the police treated her family during the investigation of Stephen's murder. While Family Liaison Officers have since been introduced to improve the relationship between the investigation team and victims' families, in her opinion these officers "are more there to collect information and evidence rather than communicate to the family how the investigation is happening" and black families continue to feel that they are treated differently from white families. She believed that at the root of this was the assumption by officers that black victims of violence are often involved in criminal activity themselves.[22] In 2007/08, 28% of people from ethnic minority communities felt that they would be treated worse by the police or another criminal justice agency because of their race. While this percentage has declined from 33% in 2001, it is still troubling.[23]

9. There will always be some individual police officers who hold racial prejudices, but levels of overt racism reported in the media, such as alleged segregated police vans in Belgravia,[24] and by our witnesses are a cause for concern. Mrs Lawrence argued: "I think senior officers have got the message but we need to communicate back down to officers on the beat."[25] However, witnesses disputed the need for police officers to require a higher education degree, as proposed by Dr Richard Stone, as a means of weeding out racism in the service.[26] Duwayne Brooks posited that allegations of racism made by members of the public against officers needed to be pursued more rigorously by their managers.[27]

10. Perhaps the main area where progress has been slowest, as acknowledged by police witnesses, is within the police workforce itself.[28] Following Macpherson's recommendation that "the Home Secretary and Police Authorities' policing plans should include targets for recruitment, progression and retention of minority ethnic staff",[29] the police were set a target of employing 7% of officers from the black and minority ethnic (BME) population by 2009. By the end of 2008, 20 of the 43 forces in England and Wales had not reached their individual target and overall the percentage has only risen from around 2% to 4.1%.[30] The service has managed to achieve a recruitment rate of over 7% (almost 20% at the Met) for officers and 8% for police staff.[31] There are about 2,700 black officers inside the Metropolitan Police.[32]

11. Mr John argued that staff discipline is still "extremely disproportionate and extremely harsh towards visible minorities".[33] Officers from BME communities are more likely to have been dismissed or required to resign compared with their white counterparts by 8.5% to 1.7%.[34]

12. There has also been little change in numbers of ethnic minorities progressing through the ranks. There is one black chief constable, in Kent. Seven out of 202, or 3.5% of ACPO members (Assistant Chief Constable rank or above) belong to an ethnic minority.[35] As of March 2007 only 2.9% of sergeants did.[36] Mr Phillips emphasised that "there are some parts of the police service … particularly some of what people call the 'elite squads' which are essentially still largely white and male."[37] Chief Constable Otter explained that one of the reasons why it takes a while for any increase in BME recruits to feed into an increase at more senior levels is that the service only recruits from the bottom and has one of the lowest turnover rates of any form of employment: the average time it takes for any officer to attain ACPO rank is 25 years. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman argued that there would be a significant change in the senior ranks over the next two to three years.[38]

Use of the term "institutional racism"

13. One of the most controversial points of the Macpherson Report was his use of the term "institutional racism" to describe the police, which was refuted by the then-Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Macpherson defined institutional racism thus:

The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.[39]

14. Mr Alfred John told us that "without a doubt" the Metropolitan Police continues to be institutionally racist because, in his view, the force still fails to recognise discriminatory behaviour that exists within the organisation.[40] Doreen Lawrence also believed that "in some areas institutional racism still exists within the police force", citing stop and search as an example of this.[41] However, police witnesses countered that, while the term had been useful in effecting change, it is "no longer the case" that there is a collective failure on the part of the organisation to provide an appropriate level of service to people because of their colour, ethnicity or religion.[42] Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, argued that "rather than continuing a debate about linguistics, what we need to do is get back to the evidence".[43]

Conclusions and recommendations

15. The police have made tremendous strides in the service they provide to ethnic minority communities and in countering racism amongst its workforce. 67 of Macpherson's 70 recommendations have been implemented fully or in part in the ten years since his report was published. We were impressed by the evidence we heard about improvements in the investigation of race crimes and of critical incidents involving members of ethnic minority communities. Police leaders have shown a clear commitment to increasing awareness of race as an issue throughout the service.

16. A number of concerns remain outstanding. Black communities in particular are disproportionately represented in stop and search statistics and on the National DNA Database; in fact, the gap has increased since 1999. Black people are over-represented in the criminal justice system for a number of complex factors; but this does not justify this level of disproportionality. In addition, being subject to higher levels of stop and search and inclusion on the DNA Database perpetuates black people's over-representation in the criminal justice system. We repeat our warning that any gains made by the use of stop and search may be offset by its potentially negative impact on community relations.

17. We are disappointed that the police service will not meet its target to employ 7% of its officers from ethnic minority communities nationally by 2009 and that BME officers continue to experience difficulties in achieving promotion, as well as being more likely to be subject to disciplinary procedures. The police service must now focus its efforts on tackling issues of discrimination within the workforce.



1   Home Office, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, para 46.1 Back

2   Ibid, para 46.27 Back

3   Ibid, recommendation 2 Back

4   See for example Ev 15 [Duwayne Brooks]; Q 12 [Alfred John]; Q 50 [Doreen Lawrence] Back

5   Ev 17 Back

6   Q 31 Back

7   Ev 15 [Duwayne Brooks] Back

8   Q 12 [Alfred John] Back

9   Home Office, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, recommendations 12 and 14 Back

10   Qq 67 [DAC Jarman], 68 [Chief Constable Otter] Back

11   EHRC, Police and Racism: What has been achieved 10 years after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report?, January 2009, pp 27-8 Back

12   Ev 15 [Duwayne Brooks]; Home Office, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, recommendation 23 Back

13   Q 67 [DAC Jarman] Back

14   Q 87 [Chief Constable Jarman] Back

15   Q 31 Back

16   Q 46 [Doreen Lawrence]; Department for Communities and Local Government, Tackling race inequalities: a discussion document, February 2009, p 21  Back

17   Q 42 Back

18   EHRC, Police and Racism: What has been achieved 10 years after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report?, January 2009, p 22 Back

19   Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2006-07, Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, HC 181, para 301 Back

20   Ibid, para 319 Back

21   HM Government, Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry: Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, First Annual Report, December 2008, p 65 Back

22   Qq 48-9 Back

23   Department for Communities and Local Government, Tackling race inequalities: a discussion document, February 2009, p 30 Back

24   "Met Police hit by claim it operated segregated vans for black and white officers", The Times, 25 February 2009, www.timesonline.co.uk  Back

25   Q 50 Back

26   Qq 41, 84-5 Back

27   Ev 16 Back

28   Q 69 Back

29   Home Office, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, recommendation 64 Back

30   Runnymede Trust, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On, February 2009, Executive Summary, p 5 Back

31   Qq 80-1 Back

32   Q 3 [Alfred John] Back

33   Q 13 Back

34   Jones and Singer (2008) cited in Runnymede Trust, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On, February 2009, Executive Summary, p 5 Back

35   Q 76 Back

36   Jones and Singer (2008) cited in Runnymede Trust, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 10 Years On, February 2009, Executive Summary, p 5 Back

37   Q 31 Back

38   Qq 81, 73 Back

39   Home Office, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, para 6.34 Back

40   Q 4  Back

41   Q 46  Back

42   Qq 66 [Rod Jarman]; 68 [Stephen Otter] Back

43   Q 28 Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 22 July 2009