The Macpherson Report: Twenty-two years on Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, led by the late Sir William Macpherson, was truly ground-breaking when its report was published twenty-two years ago. It led to major changes in the law, in policing, in the response to institutional racism and the treatment of racist crimes. Ultimately it led to the conviction of two of the suspects for Stephen Lawrence’s murder. (Paragraph 24)

2.Many of the findings and subsequent 70 recommendations made by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry focused on longstanding issues which remain as relevant today, in particular, the overall aim set by the late Sir William Macpherson of “the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing”. Our inquiry was prompted by concerns that, in some areas, much more still needed to be done to achieve that overall aim. Given the significance of the report both to policing and to the wider understanding of institutional racism, we were very concerned to hear from Baroness Lawrence just after the twentieth anniversary of the Macpherson report in 2019 that, on the report’s recommendations, “it seems as if things have become really stagnant and nothing seems to have moved”. (Paragraph 25)

3.Our inquiry does not attempt to replicate the work of the forensic judge-led Stephen Lawrence Inquiry twenty-two years on, nor to replicate the many other wider reports about racism and race equality since then. But we have assessed progress against some of the most important Macpherson report recommendations: on community confidence, on tackling racist crimes, on recruitment and retention of Black and other minority ethnic officers and staff, on the use of stop and search and other powers, and on Sir William’s overall aim of the elimination of racism and the demonstration of fairness in policing. As our report shows, addressing the shortcomings in these areas is an urgent challenge. (Paragraph 26)

Confidence in policing among BME communities

4.Evidence to our inquiry shows that there is a significant problem with confidence in the police within Black communities. We were very concerned to see that confidence in the police among Black people has fallen in recent years and the gap in confidence in policing between White and Asian people on the one hand, and Black and Mixed ethnicity people on the other hand, has grown. (Paragraph 67)

5.Fairness, respect and impartiality are core values that should be fundamental to policing. So the fact that Black people, and especially Black Caribbean people, have much lower expectations than White people that they will be treated fairly and with respect by the police is a matter of deep and serious concern. The problem is particularly acute for young people. Those we heard from in London expressed strong sentiments of anger and frustration towards the police, particularly about the way in which they felt police officers did not treat them fairly or with respect, and also expressed the lack of confidence they had that the police would keep them safe. (Paragraph 68)

6.Overall the majority of people from all communities still report confidence in their local police. However, there is no getting away from the significant confidence and fairness gap for Black communities. The fact that this persists twenty-two years after the Macpherson report is deeply troubling. It undermines the principle that all victims of crime should feel confident in turning to the police for help and puts in jeopardy the principle of policing by consent that lies at the heart of British policing. It should be cause for serious concern and urgent action among police forces and policing leaders. (Paragraph 69)

7.Given the seriousness of the issue we are particularly alarmed by the failure of police forces and the Home Office to have proper plans in place to address the confidence gap, or even to be gathering the basic evidence and data they need at local force level to understand and tackle the problem. Lack of confidence data by ethnicity at a local force level also makes it much harder to hold local forces to account for concerns about BME communities’ confidence in the police. The Metropolitan Police provides up-to-date, clear information on public perceptions by ethnicity but few other forces provide similar or comparable information. This is not good enough. (Paragraph 70)

8.The Macpherson report in its first recommendation called for a Ministerial Priority for all police services to “increase trust and confidence in policing amongst minority ethnic communities”. For the Macpherson report, the setting of a “Ministerial Priority” had a particular meaning as part of the formal relationship between the Home Office and the police, as well as indicating the importance and value that Ministers and the police should attach to the issue. Those formal arrangements changed in the early noughties, but the broader spirit of that first recommendation is as important today as it was then and in 2021 currently it is not being met. The significant decrease in confidence among some Black and minority ethnic populations in the past year, the consistent reporting of lower levels of Black and Mixed ethnicity confidence in the police compared to White individuals and the widening of the gap, combined with the failure of successive governments to require data on confidence to be collected at a local force level by ethnicity, shows that increasing trust and confidence in policing in the Black community is not being treated as a policing priority or as a Ministerial priority today. (Paragraph 71)

9.Practical action is needed. The Home Office and National Police Chiefs’ Council must ensure that confidence data is gathered and regularly published for all forces so that their communities and Police and Crime Commissioners can hold them to account, with further targeted qualitative work by forces to assess confidence levels in areas with smaller BME communities. Following the example set by MOPAC and the Metropolitan Police, survey results should be made publicly available on force websites in an easily accessible format. (Paragraph 72)

10.Police forces in England and Wales should set out clear local plans to improve confidence informed by local confidence data. They should state what measurable actions they are taking a) to increase the confidence of BME communities and b) to narrow the gap between these communities and the White population; they should be inspected on how they address confidence and trust in their forces among Black and minority ethnic communities. We recommend that as part of its regular legitimacy inspections HMICFRS monitors how police forces are recording and measuring BME confidence in their forces. (Paragraph 73)

11.The Home Office and the National Policing Board should monitor the confidence gap in each force and should set out each year what action is being taken nationally to ensure that confidence among BME communities increases in order to restore legitimacy. (Paragraph 74)

Racist incidents and victims of crime

12.The Macpherson report brought about a transformation in the way police recognise racist incidents and deal with racist crimes, and we found a strong commitment from senior police officers to maintain the progress that had been made. This seismic change is one of the most important legacies of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the vital work of those who fought to make sure the inquiry happened. (Paragraph 105)

13.However, we are concerned about the variability in police force responses at a local level: the commitment to tackling hate crime needs to be universal and consistent across the police service. We are also very concerned that the victims of hate crimes are less likely to feel that they are treated with respect by the police and less likely to be satisfied with the outcome of a police investigation than they are in other crimes. Twenty-eight years on from the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Home Office and the NPCC need to ensure that the police today are taking clear action to support the victims of racist crimes properly. (Paragraph 106)

14.We are concerned that the police once again lack the information and data they need to address these issues properly. More public information is needed on race hate crimes, the impact on different communities and the experiences of victims. The Home Office must commission research into the reasons behind lower levels of confidence among hate crime victims and ensure that figures on the victims can be broken down by monitored hate crime strand. Police forces also must improve the recording of hate crime offences so that data is accurate and consistent and must collect better information on the victims of hate crime. (Paragraph 107)

15.The Government’s disaggregation of religious hate crimes for different religions is welcome, as this provides valuable detail and insight. We believe that race hate crimes should be similarly disaggregated, so as to understand the breakdown of offences by ethnicity. Other forms of police data are already provided in this way. We call on the Government to work with police forces to implement the disaggregation of race hate crime so as to be able to publish results in the Home Office’s hate crime statistics release for 2022–23. (Paragraph 108)

16.The drop in racist incidents and crimes in the crime survey, and the increase in crimes that are reported to the police, is welcome and suggests that there is both an increased awareness of hate crime and increased confidence in reporting such crimes. However, statistics indicating that more than 75,000 race related incidents were recorded in England and Wales in 2019/20—a number which is likely to be an underestimate—is clear evidence that race hate remains a very significant problem in our society. (Paragraph 109)

17.Our greatest concern going forward is that the Government and police forces are being left behind by the rise of online racism and racist crimes as the rise of social media means patterns of race hate crime are changing. Currently the police do not have the digital capacity, training or systems in place to be able to keep up with monitoring, investigating and charging serious cases of racist and hate crimes committed online. (Paragraph 110)

18.Social media companies and platforms need to do far more to tackle online racist crime, incitement and abuse. The Committee has been raising these issues with the major social media companies for four years and, while some changes have been made, progress has been far too slow. (Paragraph 111)

19.We welcome the Government legislating for online safety and we continue to consider these issues separately from this report. But we are concerned that much more also needs to be done around the policing response. (Paragraph 112)

20.Alongside the legislative and regulatory proposals that the Government is developing for social media companies, the Home Office and National Police Chiefs’ Council should draw up a new strategy for policing hate crime online including identifying the skills, training and digital infrastructure that police forces urgently need. (Paragraph 113)

21.We agree with Neil Basu that the links between hateful content online, radicalisation and extremism as well as the devastating impact online hate crimes can have on individuals mean that it needs to be taken extremely seriously. There is a responsibility on the Government, the police service, social media companies and all of us in our communities to work more effectively to tackle racist hate crimes and hateful extremism online. (Paragraph 114)

22.The increased support for all victims of crime and the work of Family Liaison Officers as a result of the Macpherson report are important wider legacies of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. However, we are extremely concerned that, twenty-two years on from the publication of the Macpherson report, some Black men and women still report that they feel they have been treated as suspects not victims and that this reduces the likelihood of them reporting crime to the police in future. The police response to a victim of crime must never be influenced by assumptions based on their ethnicity, or racial stereotyping. The Home Office and National Police Chiefs’ Council must work with the Victims Commissioner to commission research into the experience of BME victims of crime and they must set out a specific plan of action to ensure there is proper support for BME victims of crime. (Paragraph 121)

Recruitment and progression of BME officers and staff

23.In 2020 BME officers represented just 7% of the police service across England and Wales, far below the 14% of the population in England and Wales who are BME. It is extremely disappointing that twenty-two years after the publication of the Macpherson report the police service is still a very long way from being representative of the diverse communities it serves. (Paragraph 164)

24.What is equally shocking is that so little changed in terms of BME recruitment and retention in the decade following our predecessors’ last inquiry on the Macpherson report. While there has been progress in BME recruitment by some forces in the last twelve months, several forces, including large forces like the Metropolitan Police Service and the West Midlands Police, had not at 31 March 2021 met the 10-year target for levels of BME representation set in 1999. Moreover, BME officers are over-represented in certain junior roles within the police service, for example as Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), and are under-represented in the most senior ranks, with no Black chief constables currently leading an English or Welsh police force. This problem is not restricted to policing and similar patterns of under-representation are evident across the public sector but in policing it is particularly important given the need for legitimacy. We welcome the efforts of those forces who have increased BME recruitment in the last twelve months, but it should not have taken this long to see those changes start to happen. (Paragraph 165)

25.The Macpherson report was clear that police forces need to be representative of the communities they serve. Throughout our inquiry we have heard concerns about community confidence in the police, the use of certain police powers and wider racism in policing. These findings of racial disparities and the community concerns around them, in our view, are exacerbated by the lack of BME police officers and staff at all levels of police forces. The Peel principles that have underpinned British policing for nearly 200 years are based on the understanding that the police are the public and the public are the police. These principles apply to everyone: it cannot be the case that they apply to some communities and not others based on the colour of people’s skin. As long as police forces remain so unrepresentative of local communities these vital principles are being undermined. (Paragraph 166)

26.Despite commitments made over many years police forces across the country have failed to do enough to increase BME recruitment, retention and promotion for decades. There has been a lack of focus, consistency and leadership in driving BME recruitment and promotion in the police service and it has not been taken seriously by either policing or political leaders for far too long. (Paragraph 212)

27.Our analysis suggests that, on the current rate of progress, we will not have properly representative police forces in England and Wales for another twenty years. That would be four decades after the Macpherson report raised the seriousness of this issue and nearly half a century after the murder of Stephen Lawrence. This undermines legitimacy and trust and is completely inexcusable. Urgent action is needed. (Paragraph 213)

28.The Government has committed to the recruitment of an additional 20,000 police officers by 31 March 2023. We agree with the Home Secretary that the uplift must be used to make immediate and significant progress in tackling the persistent under-representation of BME communities within the police force. We also welcome the work done by some forces over the last year to achieve an increase in the number of BME recruits. But we need a substantial and sustained increase from all forces. We are already into the second year of a three-year increased recruitment programme, so both police forces and the Home Office need to act fast to make sure that this vital opportunity to accelerate change is not missed. (Paragraph 214)

29.Much stronger national action is needed. We recognise the various equality and diversity initiatives that have been undertaken by different policing bodies but in practice they have not delivered sufficient focus or progress on BME recruitment or tackling race inequality within forces. Strategies and guidance are also ineffectual without consistency in their implementation and delivery across all forces. The Home Office must therefore set out a new framework and strategy to increase BME recruitment and ensure that all forces commit to action, not just some. (Paragraph 215)

30.We recommend that the Government agrees minimum targets for the recruitment of BME officers with each constabulary reflecting the respective composition of its local population, in order to achieve at least 14% of officers nationally by 2030. These should include immediate targets for this year’s new BME recruitment to reflect the proportion of BME residents in the local community as well as longer term targets for representation across the force. A national strategy should be drawn up by the National Policing Board drawing together the Home Secretary, the NPCC and other policing organisations, setting out a clear plan with a timeline, rigorous scrutiny on progress and remedial measures for failure to achieve these targets. (Paragraph 216)

31.The Home Secretary must also set clear, measurable race equality objectives for individual police forces in relation to ethnic diversity, retention and progression, performance against which should be reported annually. (Paragraph 217)

32.It is welcome that forces such as the West Midlands and Leicestershire have already made clear commitments both on immediate recruitment levels and the overall proportion of BME officers in the force over time. Other forces need to be more ambitious or the immediate opportunity to improve workforce diversity significantly, provided by the current uplift, will be lost. (Paragraph 218)

33.It is particularly disappointing that the number of forces achieving representative recruitment is not higher since it is clear that forces which have made a focused effort to do so are able to achieve representative recruitment. The recent progress by forces in Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire has shown that it is possible rapidly to increase the proportion of new BME recruits into line with the proportion of BME residents in the local population. Best practice from forces which are successful in achieving representative recruitment should be shared across police forces and Chief Constables held to account for their success or failure to achieve representative recruitment. (Paragraph 219)

34.We recommend that the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners works with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to enable force level comparison, and shared learning from different PCCs’ approaches to addressing race equality in recruitment to the police service. (Paragraph 220)

35.All forces must do far more to use the positive action provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to develop targeted recruitment campaigns, mentoring and support. Some forces have used those provisions very effectively to increase BME recruitment significantly in a short space of time. But we have been troubled to find that until recently many forces have failed to use the full scope of provisions permitted under the positive action provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to improve recruitment and progression, despite falling far behind in achieving recruitment that is representative of their local communities. (Paragraph 221)

36.The evidence from forces which do use a positive action approach demonstrates that forces should be able to achieve their targets using tried and tested positive action measures. Given the success these forces have had, we believe that chief officer teams should be required to use the positive action tools available to them and made accountable for their progress. (Paragraph 222)

37.Given the enduring nature of this problem a clear framework is needed for holding Chief Constables and police forces to account and ensuring that there is follow up action where forces do not make sufficient progress. (Paragraph 223)

38.Progress against local targets must be assessed regularly by the Home Secretary, acting through the National Policing Board. We welcome the commitment made by HMICFRS to include recruitment in their inspections on disproportionality. Representative recruitment must be treated as a key measure of legitimacy in HMICFRS’ regular inspections. (Paragraph 224)

39.The Home Secretary has powers in legislation to require HMICFRS inspections where there are concerns about force operational performance on particular matters, and to require specified measures in the face of persistent failings. Given the importance of representative recruitment to restoring legitimacy and confidence as well as the lack of progress on this issue over decades since the Macpherson report, we recommend that the Home Secretary use these powers where forces continue to fail to make sufficient progress on recruitment. Where forces fall short of their target on new BME recruits after two years, HMICFRS should conduct detailed assessments and report to the Home Secretary and National Policing Board any forces which are still not demonstrating sufficient improvements, and the Home Secretary should use her powers to require the local policing body (the PCC/combined authority mayor) to take specified measures to address the concern. (Paragraph 225)

40.We believe that most forces should be able to make rapid progress with clear targets and using the positive action provisions in the Equality Act 2010 we have identified. We heard concerns raised by the Metropolitan Police that some of the Equality Act provisions cannot be applied in the same way to large volume recruitments of the kind that police forces undertake and that temporary changes to the legal framework are needed in order to make rapid progress during the current recruitment uplift. We note with interest Dame Cressida Dick’s proposal to make temporary changes to section 159 (4)(b) of the Equality Act 2010 for the remaining period of the police uplift programme. She argued that this would enable the police to accelerate the recruitment of meritorious Black and minority ethnic candidates by applying, in principle, the same tie breaker positive action method that is already legal in individual appointment decisions to large volume policing recruitment campaigns. We have not had the opportunity to take evidence on the workability or legal merits of Dame Cressida Dick’s proposition but we consider that a proposal on this issue from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is worthy of the most serious deliberation. We recommend the Home Office urgently investigates the feasibility of the Commissioner’s proposal and reports the outcome of this investigation to us at the first opportunity. (Paragraph 226)

41.The significance of representation for the legitimacy of the police, and for the Peel principle that the police are the public and the public are the police, means that the Home Office must ensure that all forces can make the progress required to address historic underrepresentation, with all recruits meeting the standards required from our police officers in order to sustain local legitimacy. We agree with former Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy that the police service holds a unique position with a need for legitimacy in its use of power and that, where appropriate, additional measures could be justified to ensure that the police are broadly representative. The Home Office should also work with the Law Commission on measures which might be considered where forces can show that tried and tested positive action measures have not successfully addressed historic underrepresentation, and where such additional measures might be required in order to sustain local legitimacy. This should include examining the Metropolitan Police proposal or other approaches, for example to broaden the tie breaker provisions so they can be more easily applied to larger recruitment processes–not just to individual appointments—or other ways to allow forces to give priority to suitably qualified BME candidates as, for example, attempted by Cheshire Police in 2017. Furthermore whether the proposal by Dame Cressida Dick is deemed feasible or not, we recommend that the Home Office affirms to forces that it wishes to see more progress against these measures and that Chief Constables and their senior officer teams will be held accountable for their success or failure in achieving representative recruitment. (Paragraph 227)

42.Without clear action we fear that in ten years’ time successors to our Committee will hear the very same arguments and evidence about recruitment and retention that have been rehearsed for over twenty years, and the effectiveness and legitimacy of the police service will be further undermined amongst those communities and interest groups the police have committed to work with and represent. The Home Secretary has described the police recruitment programme as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to create a police service that represents the communities it serves. That opportunity must not go to waste. (Paragraph 228)

Police misconduct and discipline

43.There is clear racial disparity in the number of officers being dismissed from police forces—BME officers are more than twice as likely to be dismissed as White officers—and in the number of BME officers and staff being subjected to internal disciplinary processes. We welcome the recent work by the NPCC to instigate reforms. However it is extremely troubling that this disparity has been allowed to continue for so long without serious action being taken by police forces to investigate or address the problem. (Paragraph 267)

44.It is completely unacceptable that forces’ data on ethnic disparity in police misconduct has been inconsistent and incomplete to the point where it cannot be understood or acted upon. We are appalled that it has not been possible for us even to assess the extent of racial disparities in the misconduct system fully due to inadequacies in data gathering by forces. We welcome the recent agreement between the Home Office and NPCC to gather more comprehensive, comparable information this year. However it is unacceptable that it has taken a full six years after HMICFRS warned about the problem for the Home Office and the majority of individual police forces to manage to establish effective, comparable ways of collecting data. Remarkably, the IOPC had not deemed it necessary to gather information by ethnicity in advance of us raising the issue with them. This combined failure by the Home Office, national policing organisations and police forces to conduct rigorous and systematic analysis of misconduct data for so long demonstrates the complacency regarding this issue across the police service. (Paragraph 268)

45.We take some encouragement from the NPCC’s national review into ethnic disparity in police misconduct and the work done by some individual forces to attempt to close the gap. The follow-up work from this review which has been reported to us in 2021 shows that the NPCC has recognised and accepts the need to prioritise correction of these failings. However, it is essential that progress is consistently monitored and reported transparently across all forces. Progress in implementing the NPCC review recommendations should be subject to an HMICFRS audit after two years. (Paragraph 269)

46.Police forces must act swiftly to address perceptions that Professional Standards Departments are marked by institutionally racist practices. In addition, forces must address unacceptable racial disproportionality in their composition: it is totally unacceptable that 63% of all Professional Standards Departments include no BME police officers at all. We welcome the work done by some forces, reported in the NPCC’s most recent review, to draw on BME advisors as well as seeking to address the lack of BME representation in PSDs, but all forces need to address this and demonstrate progress by the end of 2021. The NPCC should conduct a specific review into this issue and report within a year. (Paragraph 270)

Stop and search

47.Twenty-two years on from the publication of the Macpherson report there remains a serious problem with racial disproportionality in stop and search. Black people are over nine and a half times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people. Despite the Macpherson report and the concerns raised and recommendations by many other community and policing organisations over the last two decades, the disproportionality is greater now than it was when the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry concluded. We agree with HMICFRS that these disparities undermine legitimacy, which is fundamental to the British model of policing by consent. (Paragraph 366)

48.Stop and search is an important police power and the Macpherson report’s conclusion that it has a useful role to play in the prevention and detection of crime still applies. However the nature of the unexplained and unjustified racial disparities, and the way we have seen stop and search used, has too often damaged confidence both in stop and search itself and in policing by consent for the BME communities most affected by it. That confidence needs to be rebuilt. Policing needs to be fair and seen to be fair. (Paragraph 367)

49.No evidence to this inquiry has adequately explained or justified the nature and scale of the disproportionality in the use of stop and search powers. This is especially the case for searches for the possession of drugs where evidence shows that Black people are less likely than White people to have used drugs in the last year, but are 2.4 times more likely to be stopped and searched for drug possession. (Paragraph 368)

50.We recognise the importance of the police being able to take action against knife crime, and their concern that victims and perpetrators of knife crime are disproportionately Black, but we also note that this does not explain the fact that there are significant racial disparities in stop and searches in every force in the country, with some of the highest levels of disproportionality in areas with very low levels of knife crime. (Paragraph 369)

51.The manner in which police forces conduct stop and search is particularly important in determining how that stop will be perceived both by the individual who is searched and their wider community. We heard troubling examples of stops and searches being conducted in a manner that was deeply alienating and uncomfortable. Given that the majority of people stopped and searched are not found to be committing any crime, it is extremely important that all stops are initiated in a respectful and appropriate manner, and care is taken to manage conflict and de-escalate encounters where necessary. (Paragraph 370)

52.Stop and search needs to be used in a focused and targeted way. When it is not, it leads to injustice and to too many people being searched without good reason. The Metropolitan Police increased their use of stop and search during the early months of the first national covid-19 lockdown to the highest levels seen in London for many years and they did so at a time when far fewer people were on the streets. They were wrong to do so: the result was that far more people who were not committing crimes were stopped and searched, the proportion of searches which found weapons or drugs dropped, and the racial disparity widened. It should never have been possible for the equivalent of 1 in 4 Black males between the ages of 15 and 24 in London who were not committing a crime to be stopped and searched during a three-month period. This finding undermines arguments that stop and search was being used judiciously during this time. The Metropolitan Police has reduced the number of stop and searches in London since then but the impact of stop and search policies during that period was very damaging for community confidence not just in London but across the country. (Paragraph 371)

53.In the twenty-two years since the Macpherson report there have been different attempts to reform the way stop and search has worked, but there has been little progress in addressing the unexplained and unjustified racial disparities or building confidence among BME communities. Despite the fact that basic, sensible policy recommendations have been made over many years including by HMICFRS, and we have seen some excellent local work done between police forces and local communities to tackle problems, too often these recommendations and initiatives have been piecemeal and not widely implemented or sustained. That needs to change urgently. Police forces and the Home Office need to take these failures seriously. In particular, we are very perplexed and disappointed that the ongoing recommendations made by HMICFRS since 2017 aimed at improving how stop and search is used are still not being adopted by all forces. The Home Office, NPCC and APCC need to agree a clear action plan endorsed by the National Policing Board to ensure that all forces are following the HMICFRS recommendations. (Paragraph 420)

54.We are very concerned about shortcomings in data collection and transparency with regard to stop and search powers. It is inexcusable that forces do not have proper monitoring and oversight systems in place. In particular, there is far too great a disparity in the detail and consistency by which the tactic is monitored and recorded across all forces. We fully concur with the recent HMICFRS recommendation that, by December 2021, the Home Office should agree, nationally, a minimum standard for monitoring stop and search powers. This should include the recording and monitoring of the ethnicity of those who are subject to road traffic stops, as first recommended by Macpherson and his advisers over twenty-two years ago. (Paragraph 421)

55.The lack of evidence available about the effectiveness of stop and search in reducing serious violence crime has contributed to scepticism about the basis for using the powers and therefore a lack of confidence in them. The Home Office should fill this evidential gap by commissioning a fully independent and comprehensive research study of stop and search tactics to better inform policy decisions at a central and local level. That study should necessarily focus on, but not be limited to, the effect of different stop and search powers on levels of crime; locality type (urban, rural); the type of stop deployed; the grounds and find rate. We advise that any such study should be longitudinal in design to allow researchers to map and identify trends over time with the expectation that they share regular updates in the interests of transparency and public scrutiny. (Paragraph 422)

56.Police forces need to take very seriously their responsibility to address racial disparities in the way people are treated in their local communities. Too many forces are unable to explain the levels of racial disparities in their area and are still not engaging in serious attempts to monitor and explain or to change their approach. All forces must ensure they now do so in line with the HMICFRS recommendations. All forces must also put a proper system in place for conducting internal reviews of body worn video to ensure stop and searches are being carried out in line with College of Policing stop and search guidance. (Paragraph 423)

57.We have heard about a number of important initiatives designed to improve the experience of stops, and particularly welcome those referred to in this report that have been introduced by both BME community leaders and police forces to foster more honest and transparent discussion about stop and search. However, there are clear gaps in police communication, conflict management and de-escalation training which need to be addressed so that police officers can use stop and search effectively and fairly as a tool in tackling crime. As recommended by HMICFRS, forces should ensure officers and staff receive training on effective communication skills, in line with the National Policing Guidelines on Conflict Management; this should be provided in addition to existing training on conflict management and de-escalation. (Paragraph 424)

58.We believe that the confidence of local communities will only be earned if there is proper, independent oversight of stop and search, by the community at a local level and, at a national level, by HMICFRS and the Home Office. All forces should ensure that in addition to their internal reviews of body worn video, they also put arrangements in place for external reviews of body worn video involving community representatives both to build confidence and ensure improvements are made. (Paragraph 425)

Use of police technologies and tools

59.New policing technologies have developed in the decades since the Macpherson report. These technologies, which clearly could not have been considered by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, have given rise to similar kinds of issues about the importance of sustaining confidence among minority ethnic communities, avoiding racial disparities and ensuring fairness in policing. Too often we have seen evidence of new measures or technologies being introduced without sensitivity to the potential impact on race disparities or community confidence. It is vital that police forces, policing institutions and the Home Office have systems in place to ensure that new technology or new measures are implemented fairly, without racial bias and without widening unfair racial disparities. (Paragraph 465

60.The Metropolitan Police developed the Gangs Violence Matrix as a new way to provide intelligence to tackle serious gang related violence and crime in London, but without robust systems in place to consider racial disproportionality on the database, ensure proper oversight or sustain community confidence. As a result, considerable community concern grew about the use of the database and the high levels of racial disproportionality. The MOPAC review of the database and the commitments since by MOPAC and the Metropolitan Police Service to reform the Gangs Violence Matrix since 2018 are welcome. It is important that MOPAC’s commitment to provide oversight and monitor disproportionality on the Matrix is followed through as part of wider efforts to monitor the potential for racial bias in policing tools as a matter of course. (Paragraph 466)

61.More recently, the serious concerns raised about disproportionality in the use of Fixed Penalty Notices as part of police enforcement of the covid-19 regulations provide cautionary evidence about the need for care and oversight in the way new policing powers are introduced. In the first lockdown Black people were 1.8 times more likely to be subject to covid enforcement measures than White people. (Paragraph 467)

62.Evidence of disproportionality must be carefully considered and presented transparently, with robust systems of independent oversight. Although the NPCC conducted a detailed analysis of the use of covid Fixed Penalty Notices by ethnicity during the first lockdown, in response to issues raised in the media and questions from this Committee, we note with concern that neither the NPCC nor the Home Office have published any further analysis of covid-19 enforcement by ethnicity during subsequent restrictions or lockdowns even though they know there is an unexplained racial disparity. Leaving it to individual forces to follow up is not good enough, especially when the NPCC has pointed out that data analysis is more difficult at local level where smaller numbers are involved. The NPCC and Home Office should be continuing to monitor the data to see whether the racial disparity persists, what the reasons are behind it, and what action may be needed to ensure that there is no unfairness or racial injustice in the use of new powers. (Paragraph 468)

63.New technologies have the potential either to re-build community confidence and/or to badly damage it, depending on the technology, on the way it is introduced and the nature of the oversight. The introduction of police body-worn cameras, if done properly, is a new technology that could help to rebuild community confidence. As we have recommended in the previous chapter, it has an essential role to play in ensuring that stop and search is done fairly under proper oversight. But it is important that body-worn video is used consistently, rather than being left to individual officer discretion. Footage must be provided as part of structured processes of oversight and review, both internally and externally, to facilitate lessons being learned and openness with the public. (Paragraph 469)

64.The police are currently exploring other new technologies such as live facial recognition technology, where serious consideration is needed of the way the technology might apply for different communities and any consequences for racial disparities. (Paragraph 470)

65.As new policing technologies, tools and powers are developed, it is important that there are robust and credible processes in place both to guard against the risk of importing or exacerbating racial disparities and to maximise their potential to demonstrate fairness and build consent in the public. (Paragraph 471)

66.Under the Equality Act 2010 the Home Office and the police have a legal duty to consider the equality impact of new policies, measures or technologies on race equality or other protected characteristics. We do not believe that this responsibility is currently being taken seriously enough. The Home Office, NPCC and College of Policing should work together to identify the range of new policing technologies or measures for which national race equality assessments should be done or where new research and data gathering is needed to anticipate, monitor or swiftly address unjustified race disparities. (Paragraph 472)

Racism and the police twenty-two years on

67.The murder of George Floyd and its global impact shone a spotlight on the race inequality and injustice that are still features of our society. It is an important step forward that political and policing leaders have come together in recognition of the fact that racial injustice persists in our society and have expressed determination to eliminate it as well as starting to introduce reforms. However, it should not have required video footage of the murder of a Black man by a police officer and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests to concentrate the minds of the Government and the police on the imperative of race equality. (Paragraph 500)

68.This report recognises the many significant changes that have been made on issues raised in the Macpherson report twenty-two years ago, including the major improvements in the way the police deal with racist crimes, and the public commitments by forces and senior officers to diversity and race equality. We also welcome the increased focus on race equality over the last twelve months. However, our inquiry has also identified very serious and persistent shortcomings across the police service with regard to racial inequalities and racism in important areas that still have not been addressed after more than two decades. The central aim of the 70 recommendations published by Macpherson was to “eliminate racist prejudice and disadvantage and demonstrate fairness in aspects of policing”. More than two decades later this aim still has not been met. (Paragraph 501)

69.Individual bias and prejudice have no place in policing. Where they persist they must be strongly challenged, including through robust disciplinary action and dismissals for unacceptable racist behaviour. Individual forces must be vigilant and proactive in shaping their organisational culture, with training and management systems in place to address the conscious and unconscious biases and prejudices of individual officers. (Paragraph 516)

70.Training for officers in addressing racism and valuing cultural diversity remains as important now as it was when the Macpherson report recommended it twenty-two years ago. But we are concerned by the disproportionate reliance on unconscious bias training that was apparent in the evidence we received. We recommend that training involves an explicit focus on anti-racism which should include examining racial disparities and seeking to reduce differences in experience and outcomes by racial and ethnic group. (Paragraph 517)

71.We would like to see consistency in the quality and content of training delivered at a local and service wide level. To this end we recommend a comprehensive review and overhaul of training on racism, diversity and equality, led by the College of Policing and assisted by the Home Office. Its purpose should be to draw up clear national standards on anti-racist training for all police officers and staff. It should consider specifically how to involve local communities in drawing up training programmes and ways to draw on the experience of those who face the consequences of racism in the communities the police serve. It should include training to identify and question racial disparities within structures, policy and institutional culture, in addition to unconscious bias. (Paragraph 518)

72.It is essential also for leaders to set an example by undertaking this anti-racism training, shaping the organisational culture of their forces, confronting unfair behaviour among officers and addressing structures that disadvantage and discriminate. (Paragraph 519)

73.The Public Sector Equality Duty and the Equality Act 2010 are a part of the legacy of the Macpherson Report’s important work on institutional racism, as they build on the race equality duty that was introduced in response to the report’s findings. Under the Act the police, as public bodies, must have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and advance race equality. They have a responsibility as institutions to tackle indirect as well as direct discrimination including taking steps to prevent inequality not just to respond once it arises. But whilst police forces have set out broad public strategies to do this, progress has been too weak in practice and we do not believe that policing has taken seriously enough its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 in recent years. (Paragraph 550)

74.Since the Macpherson report was published there have been important and welcome improvements in policing, and we have found that policing today is very different from twenty-two years ago. Our inquiry has seen evidence of significant improvements in the policing of racist crimes and hate crimes: in the commitment of forces and senior officers to promoting diversity and equality, in good examples of local community policing, in new policies and recent progress among some forces in recruitment. That is of course the very least we would expect in the several decades since Stephen Lawrence’s murder. (Paragraph 551)

75.But our inquiry has also found that despite many years of commitments being made to race equality by the police service and the Home Office, there are still persistent, deep rooted and unjustified racial disparities in key areas. The failure to make sufficient progress on BME recruitment, retention and progression, troubling race disparities in the police misconduct system, unjustified inequalities in the use of key police powers such as stop and search and a worrying decline in confidence and trust in the police among some BME communities point to structural problems which disadvantage BME groups. Examination of individual bias without also directly focusing on the processes that enable disparities in outcomes will not improve the experiences of BME groups. We are most concerned about those areas where police forces are not taking even the most basic action to implement existing recommendations aimed at tackling racism or, where they have failed to collate rigorous and consistent data that would allow them to investigate, understand and address racial disparities or injustices that arise. (Paragraph 552)

76.Our objective has been to consider progress, twenty-two years on, against the key Macpherson themes and recommendations which we set out in chapter one. We have not sought to carry out the kind of in-depth exercise in respect of individual policing institutions that either Macpherson conducted into the Metropolitan Police or that Wendy Williams conducted into the Home Office. As a result, we have not been in a position to apply the tests of institutional racism that, for example, Wendy Williams used (see paragraph 545) but nor was that our intention in this inquiry. However, the breadth of our inquiry and our analysis of the evidence we have gathered in relation to the different recommendations specified by Sir William Macpherson has led us to the following conclusions. (Paragraph 553)

77.Firstly, we take extremely seriously the views of Black and minority ethnic police organisations who repeatedly told us that they continue to experience and bear witness to institutional racism in our police forces today, and believe that this testimony alone should be grounds enough for policing leaders, the Home Office and Government to take seriously the imperative for change across policing institutions and practice. Like MOPAC, we consider the fact that the question as to whether police forces and policing practice are institutionally racist is still being asked and debated demonstrates how much more work needs to be done to ensure the police service has the trust and confidence of BME communities. (Paragraph 554)

78.Secondly, the evidence we have gathered shows that the impetus for change from the “clarion call” of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry has not been sustained. In 1999 the House of Commons was told by the then Home Secretary that the changes required by the Macpherson report would “work only if they are systemic–embraced by the culture of the police force as well as in its practice, implemented in the mainstream of the service at every level”. Our findings have shown that whilst the mainstream of the service has changed substantially in some areas - for example on the response to racist crimes - in others such as recruitment, misconduct or community confidence, essential changes have yet to be embraced. (Paragraph 555)

79.We recognise that the devolved nature of policing means that there are variations in policies, cultures and outcomes between individual forces and institutions. However, based on the evidence we have received, we believe that whilst there have been improvements in important areas, there are continued shortcomings that go beyond individual bias and that amount to a systematic failure on the part of the police service and governments, over many years, to take race inequality in policing seriously enough and as a result to eliminate it from policing in line with the objective set by Macpherson over two decades ago. (Paragraph 556)

80.Thirdly, we note the different approaches to assessing “institutional racism”—the description in the Macpherson report, the six tests developed by Wendy Williams, the criteria proposed by the Sewell Commission, and the approach to assessing and tackling discrimination and racism within public institutions set out in the Equality Act 2010. We believe that the concept of institutional racism set out by the Macpherson report remains extremely important today and that institutions must be able to challenge themselves and to be held publicly to account over inequalities in outcomes, and racism manifested through policies and procedures, as well as within individual attitudes. (Paragraph 557)

81.We believe that it would therefore be helpful to build consensus around a framework for measuring and assessing institutional racism within individual organisations, using the approach Wendy Williams applied in her consideration of the operations of the Home Office as a starting point. We recommend that the Equality and Human Rights Commission undertakes work to determine a framework against which individual institutions including police forces should be rigorously assessed. (Paragraph 558)

82.Fourthly, police forces must strengthen their approach to tackling the systemic problems of race inequality that we have identified. Forces should adopt the approach set out in the David Lammy review of the Criminal Justice System: explain or change. That must mean monitoring, assessing and robustly investigating race disparities so that only robust and evidence-based explanations are accepted; and where forces cannot explain disparities, they must set out changes to eliminate them. At a national level, policing organisations and the Home Office should be holding forces accountable for doing so. Recent comments by Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Dame Cressida Dick and Martin Hewitt, as well as new initiatives from the NPCC, HMICFRS, the IOPC and from individual PCCs and Chief Constables suggest that police leaders recognise the importance now of taking a ‘big step forward’—but they must now make good on their intent by rigorously examining their institutions, explaining the disparities we have highlighted, or changing their organisations and practices to eradicate them. (Paragraph 559)

83.The Macpherson report led to major changes in attitudes towards racism and to progress on race equality both in policing and across society. However that early momentum was not sustained and persistent problems were not addressed. Now that there is a new focus on challenging racism and on the very same objectives set out by the Macpherson report, it is vital that this time progress is sustained and made permanent. It will take a focused, sustained and determined effort on the part of all policing institutions and Government to address those structural problems that stand in the way of eliminating racist prejudice and disadvantage, and demonstrating fairness in all aspects of policing—the ambition of the Macpherson report twenty-two years ago. (Paragraph 560)

Delivery and Accountability

84.Twenty-two years on, police forces need to take responsibility for the lack of progress in vital areas raised by the Macpherson report. Individual forces and Chief Constables have considerable scope within their own organisations and communities to increase BME recruitment, establish fair misconduct processes, and build trust with local communities over stop and search policies. Police and Crime Commissioners also have considerable scope to hold their Chief Constables and forces to account, or to pursue measures like BME recruitment targets or additional oversight arrangements involving local Black and minority ethnic communities. Yet whilst policing has changed in many ways for the better in the last two decades, in these key areas affecting race equality too little progress has been made. Many Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners are not doing enough to tackle the problems or to recognise the additional work still needed to achieve the objective William Macpherson set out twenty-two years ago of “the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing”. (Paragraph 581)

85.The wide variation among forces in the approaches taken and outcomes achieved on specific issues in relation to race equality is a matter of serious concern. Whilst we welcome the good practice of forces that have chosen to innovate on promoting race equality, we are worried at how far this has been dependent only on individual leadership with patchy national progress as a result. (Paragraph 582)

86.The lack of widespread local scrutiny and oversight mechanisms involving different communities means that, too often, impetus to make progress is left to individual Chief Constables and PCCs, without improvements being made across the board or processes to ensure the interests of minority communities are represented. All forces need to establish local community oversight mechanisms which specifically recognise the need to monitor racial disparities and to increase confidence in local minority ethnic communities. (Paragraph 583)

87.Police forces also need to recognise the importance of coordinated national work to address unjustified race disparities and tackle racism. Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners should support work by the NPCC and APCC to establish national strategies and monitoring to ensure progress everywhere as problems will not be solved by forces working in isolation. Shortcomings in one force have implications for confidence and perceptions of policing nationally. (Paragraph 584)

88.The NPCC has a leadership function in policing, co-ordinating police forces at a national level. It is welcome that the NPCC has announced its intention to develop and implement a race equality action plan but it is deeply disappointing that this has since been delayed and that it is taking so long for forces to agree on much needed action. The capacity of the NPCC to act quickly and decisively is hindered by the difficulty of reaching agreement between 43 forces. We do not believe that the current structures will be sufficient to deliver change that is already twenty-two years overdue. The NPCC has also done important and welcome work in some of the individual areas we have considered in our report, such as on misconduct (see chapter five). Again, however, its impact has been limited where forces have been slow to address its recommendations. (Paragraph 589)

89.The College of Policing has an important role to play in providing training, guidance and standards for police forces to follow. Although it has developed training and guidance on stop and search, it has not played a strong enough role in ensuring that officer training is focused specifically on anti-racism in addition to diversity and unconscious bias. We would like to see recommendations made by the College of Policing taken up consistently across police forces, so that opportunities to improve standards and practices are not lost. (Paragraph 592)

90.Evidence given to this inquiry indicates that the IOPC (and the IPCC before it) has been too complacent on matters of race, and specifically has not worked to collate data consistently (see chapter five). We welcome the IOPC’s announcement, in summer 2020, that it will commit to a dedicated focus on race discrimination as a thematic area of review. Specifically, it states that this will involve “independently investigating more cases where racial discrimination may be a factor in order to develop a body of evidence” to advance change. (Paragraph 597)

91.HMICFRS has a very important role to play in driving improvements, raising standards and measuring progress across policing. It has produced a series of extensive reports about stop and search which has added a great deal to understanding of the issues. It is disappointing that its recommendations have still not been implemented by a large number of forces, as we discussed in chapter six. (Paragraph 604)

92.However, it has been far too long since the inspectorate conducted a thematic review on race. There is an urgent need for HMICFRS to address race directly in its inspections. HMICFRS should always include specific questions about race and the workforce (including recruitment and disciplinary procedures, and officer and staff attitudes to race) and workplace operations in its PEEL legitimacy inspection framework. Further, given that matters of race remain a problem across the police service, we can identify no logical reason as to why HMICFRS have discontinued regular thematic reviews of race and policing. In order to provide scrutiny of the service and to evidence its own commitment to the issue we therefore recommend that these reviews are reinstated as a matter of priority and that the first such review should take place no later than 2022. (Paragraph 605)

93.The current system for delivery and accountability on race equality within policing is not working. While there are some opportunities for ensuring accountability within the police service, our evidence indicates that these processes are far too fragmented and rarely exercised fully. Race equality tends to be left to the discretion of individual leaders or forces and important recommendations or examples of good practice are not implemented systematically. Moreover, there is a lack of a coordinated drive to make progress across policing, and insufficient follow-up actions in the form of scrutiny rewards or sanctions to ensure that change which is promised is implemented in practice. (Paragraph 614)

94.Since the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group was disbanded in 2005, there has been no national focus on achieving the aims of the Macpherson report to eliminate “racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing”. The various national policing bodies have not done this, nor has the Home Office. The EHRC is not equipped to monitor progress in policing regularly. Since the Commission for Racial Equality was folded into the EHRC, there has also been no separate independent national body with an explicit focus on race equality. The attempts by the NPCC to show national leadership in drawing up a national action plan are welcome but the delays in getting agreement with police forces show its limitations. We recognise the NPCC’s intention to establish an oversight board with an independent Chair. However the Chair is only expected to work for a few days each year and it does not appear that the Board will have the resources, analytical capacity or clout that we believe are needed. (Paragraph 615)

95.Furthermore the withdrawal of the Home Office from an active role in policing has been responsible for fragmentation and a lack of wholesale ownership in addressing race equality issues. While we acknowledge the devolved nature of policing, the Home Office is ultimately responsible for providing leadership and accountability in this area and for ensuring that progress is made in practice. The time for the Home Office to embrace that role is long overdue. (Paragraph 616)

96.The Home Secretary should establish and chair, under the aegis of the National Policing Board, a Race Equality Steering Group. The Home Secretary should have oversight of progress in addressing race equality across the 43 police forces, including the implementation of action plans, through the Steering Group which should also hold Chief Constables in England and Wales to account on the specific actions they have taken to improve outcomes for Black and minority ethnic officers in all areas of their employment. This oversight must include accountability for reaching force-level recruitment targets as part of a commitment to achieve a representative police service by 2030 (as recommended in chapter four). (Paragraph 617)

97.In addition to the steering group, we believe it is so important to ensure that progress is sustained that further independent dedicated oversight on race equality in the police service in England and Wales is needed. Commitments to address issues from BME recruitment to stop and search have been made many times before, but too little has changed in practice. We cannot afford to see that happen again. We welcome the intention behind the NPCC’s proposed appointment of an independent chair for a new race equality oversight board but we believe it needs to be significantly strengthened and broadened. (Paragraph 618)

98.We recommend that, in place of the oversight board, a new Race Equality Commissioner for policing is established to provide ongoing scrutiny, including analysis and advice on policing policy, tools and procedures that are likely (or have been shown) to have a potential impact on racial disparities. The remit of the post would include scope to instigate investigations and to report at the Commissioner’s discretion, with powers to gather information, make recommendations on policing institutions and where appropriate to refer concerns raised by their inquiries to HMICFRS for further examination and inspection. The Race Equality Steering Group chaired by the Home Secretary should consider and respond to the Commissioner’s independent reports. To ensure that the Commissioner has sufficient resources and powers, it should be established on a statutory basis and provided with ring-fenced funding from Government. However it is vital that the post is, and is seen to be, independent of both policing and central Government to ensure it can win the confidence of BME communities. Therefore, the Commissioner should be appointed through an independent process and be accountable directly to Parliament. (Paragraph 619)

99.The renewed focus amongst policing leaders on issues of race inequality since the summer of 2020, and in particular the commitment on the part of the NPCC to the production of an action plan to consider “concerns about racial inequalities in policing and the criminal justice system” is welcome. However, it is vital that this work begins as soon as possible, is adopted by every police force and its objectives are followed through. Meeting the goals of the action plan cannot be left to individual policing institutions without more formal structures of accountability and scrutiny. (Paragraph 620)

100.Based on the evidence we have received and the systemic problems we have identified, we recommend that in taking forward its Plan of Action on Inclusion and Race, the NPCC must focus on the following priorities:

101.Across the country police forces work hard each day to tackle crime and keep all our communities safe. Police officers and staff work immensely hard to deliver fairness in policing, to support Black and minority ethnic victims of crime, to tackle racist hate crimes and support community cohesion. But it is because the role of the police in communities is so important that the issues raised in our report need to be addressed. Our inquiry has found that the Macpherson report’s overall aim of the elimination of racist prejudice and disadvantage and the demonstration of fairness in all aspects of policing has still not been met twenty-two years on, and we have identified persistent deep-rooted problems where too little progress has been made because of a lack of focus and accountability on issues of race. While this is the case, trust between the police service and Black and minority ethnic communities will remain low and the long-standing Peel principles around fairness in policing and policing by consent will continue to be undermined. (Paragraph 622)

102.The commitments made over the last year by the NPCC, by individual forces and by senior police officers to a step change in addressing race equality in policing are important and welcome. But commitments have been made in the past that were then not delivered. This time needs to be different or confidence may be permanently undermined. This time, Government and police forces must work with local communities to ensure there is real and sustainable change that improves the experiences of, and outcomes for, Black and minority ethnic communities whether within the police service or without—that raises confidence and demonstrates fairness in policing for all. (Paragraph 623)

Published: 30 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement