Generating police racism

It is understood by Macpherson that it is not the character of the contact between mostly white officers and black people in law-enforcement situations but rather the relationships which that white officer chooses to embark on outside the police force48. The reason why the white police officer does not suspect all white people as suspects is because they socialise with a diversity of white people which are not criminal. As they do not associate with black people outside their personal relationships they only cross paths with them in a confrontational police environment49.

They therefore impose their attitudes which are derived from their restricted interactions with ethnic minorities50. Macpherson on the other hand fails to notice this as he devises a policy agenda that is largely a reiteration of strategies that have already failed in the past51. Macphersons recommendation for more rule-tightening is accompanied by his suggestion for performance indicators in racist crime investigations52. He also calls for a better coordination and a review of procedures without clarifying what exactly should be changed 53.

He has not specified as to how this should be carried out. Lea reckons that a better approach would be organisational change in terms of taking autonomy away from police officers during investigations when considering serious crimes54. Suggestions put forward for the creation of an independent investigating magistrate would be more appropriate55. In his recommendations, Macpherson also calls for an increase in ethnic minority recruitment56. Figures, however, have not increased by a significant amount in the last 20 years57. This spurs the thought of why this has not happened.

The root of this issue is still unknown and was overlooked by both Scarman and Macpherson58. Stop and search is seen as necessary by Macpherson who believed it should be even more tightly controlled59. This cannot be understood by Lea. It is maintained that stop and search has little to with racism and more to do with economic discrimination60. With the concentration of the black community living in economically deprived areas, other factors such as social class may affect judgement of the police officers, which legitimises the stopping and search of black people61.

In theory this should also apply to white people in similar situations. However it is proclaimed that black people gain more attention from police due to notions of dangerousness and disorderly behaviour62. As much as Macpherson believes stop and search to be beneficial, with every stop and search to be recorded under his recommendations, statistics have shown that it leads to more stops and searches with fewer arrests63. Lea believes Macpherson has missed the point because he believes it is the "major factor in generating police racism"64.

The strategies have had had minimal impact since Scarman which Macpherson is aware of, however fails to adopt a more radical policy agenda directed at the structure and organisation of policing and the relationship between police and ethnic minorities in law enforcement situations65. Three main RRAs have been passed since 1965 and one could argue that the first one brought about little change66. A reason behind this is that the government had not shown any clear commitment or allocated adequate resources to racial equality programmes outlined in these acts67.

The RRA 1965/1968 included that the state should ban discrimination on the basis of race and colour/ethnic origin through legal sanctions and public regulatory agencies68. THE RRA In 1965, the Race Relations Act was passed by the Labour government69. The purpose of this act was to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race. The act was seen as important in establishing concern of the state with racial discrimination and as affirmation of broad objective of using legislative action to achieve good relations70.

While this act made racial discrimination unlawful, a new act was past in 1968 under the same government, outlawing discrimination in housing and employment71. These two acts together helped with the setting up of special bodies to deal with problems faced by immigrants in relation to discrimination, social adjustment and welfare and helped educate the population as whole about race relations72. With such schemes implemented, it would therefore minimise the risk of racialised conflict developing in Britain, as there was already a notion of too many ethnic minorities73.

The state refused to revise the 1976 Act to give it a more positive approach against racism and discrimination74. From 1965-1975, the successive governments (Conservative and Labour) left issues of tackling racial discrimination to the Race Relations Board (implemented by the 1965 Act) and the Community relations Commission (set up the 1968 Act), with little support and direction given by central government itself75.

This last point implies that the lack of government intervention is why the race Relations Act 1976 was passed; the previous acts had shown limited impact which therefore called for new and more effective strategies to deal in areas such as employment76. Research and statistics showed that the legislation passed in the 1960s had brought about little or no change, as high levels of discrimination persisted77. The RRA 1976 defined discrimination under two sections; direct and indirect78.

Direct discrimination as defined the 1976 Act: "where a person treats another person less favourably on racial grounds than he treats or would treat someone else"79. Indirect discrimination is slightly differently defined: "... consisting of treatment which may be described as equal in a formal sense between different racial groups but discriminatory in its effect on one particular racial group"80. As a result of the ineffectiveness of the 1968 Act, the Select Committee in Race Relations & Immigration launched a major investigation in 197581.

This report looked at the situation from an administrative angle and highlighted matters that needed to belong on the political agenda. The first argument stated that one needs to go beyond the narrow definition of discrimination used in the 1965 and 1968 Acts82. The inclusion of institutionalised/unintended forms of discrimination was proposed83. The second argument consisted of the need to strengthen administrative structures and legal powers of the Race Relations Board, which would allow for more effective implementation of anti-discrimination policies84.

It also recommended the inclusion of penalties for those found guilty of discrimination85. Finally, the committee held that there was a need for a more interventionist stance from central government, specifically from the Home Office86. The most important innovations include an extension of objectives of law not to cover only intention discrimination but racial disadvantage brought about by systematic racism87. The other improvement was the reorganisation of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission which combined the two into one joint agency88.

This is now known as the Commission of Race Relations. There was also a different procedure for the handling of individual complaints of discrimination89. This merge of the two organisations was seen as a way applying the law and promotion of equality and good race relations90. Another one of its duties was to keep the 1976 Act under review and draw up proposals for amending it. However, research proved the 1976 Act had short comings. Some claimed it very ineffective and likened it to "machinery not functioning properly91".

It was only unlawful to discriminate in employment education and public services, therefore making it perfectly lawful to discriminate outside them92. There was a serious doubt as to whether the RRA 1976 bound the police as illustrated in the case Farah v Police of Metropolis93. Police officers are liable for racial discrimination when providing assistance/protection to the public but the Act94. The Act also did not hold Chief Commissioner of Police vicariously liable for his constables which therefore permitted institutional racism to "flourish in the Metropolitan Police Service without any legal check.

95" The government accepted the existence of institutional racism in other public authorities which is the result of new legislation in the Race Relations Amendment Act 200096. This Act in theory ties up all the loose ends of the 1976 Act, in that it is now illegal to discriminate in any functions, and that the police is now subject to vicarious liability in the law of tort97. In conclusion, comparatively against measures taken before the Macpherson report and the RRAA 2000, I believe that the government is more sensitive and accommodating towards ethnic minorities.

Legislation before this period was very much centred on getting rid of ethnic minorities or endeavouring to stop immigration. Sandra Fredman indicates in her journal that we have to give the RRAA 2000 and further legislative initiatives being brought forward by the EU time to prove themselves, which I deem to be correct. John Lea talks about a complete reorganisation of the Metropolitan Police Service and the fact that stop and search is a main factor in causing institutional racism. The truth of the matter is that there is little case law since the RRAA 2000 and this may prove a point in itself.

However I believe that this is not enough. In my opinion, one cannot stop racism and discrimination within different areas of society as people cannot always be regulated by the law. Even though the law is there to deter criminal activity, if someone has a prerogative of killing another person based on the colour of their skin, then they will. Society needs to be re-educated on being tolerant and informed on other cultures in order for integration to run smoothly. This can only take place in institutions such as education, where children are taught from a young age and thus become socialised into values that promote racial unity.

Older generations are more set in their ways and come from an era where ethnic minorities were accepted as subordinates. With facts such as the British National Party gaining more popularity and more people voting for the Right, it leads us to other questions98. Unfortunately, racism cannot be eradicated and equality will always remain dubious.

Bibilography Books:

  • Race and Racism in contemporary Britain - John Solomos 1989, Palgrave Macmillan After Macpherson: Policing After the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry - Alan Marlow and Barry Loveday, 2000, Russell House
  • Websites: BBC website - Stephen Lawrence: the facts