The Race Relations Act

This reform was intended to make the powers of police officers being effectively monitored by their supervisors. The MP for the Conservative party, William Hague, linked a rise in violent street crime in some areas to a 6% drop in stop and searches of black people because police officers feared being called racist. However, many black and Asian people – including Stephen Lawrence's father, Neville, who filed a complaint after being stopped last year – said they were still being unfairly targeted.

In January, figures from the Home Office showed black people were still five times more likely to be stopped in London than white people. Home Secretary, Jack Straw promised to implement several of the recommendations, but as well as the issues of double jeopardy and private use of racist language he also expressed doubt about making police officers liable for disciplinary action for up to five years after they retire. He was also concerned about publishing the number of racist incidents at every school as this could discourage the reporting of incidents.

Many have argued that Macpherson's report has seen no changes. But the Lawrence family's lawyer Imran Khan has disagreed. "There has been a profound change," he said. "What the report has done is to articulate for the first time in official circles the fact that racism exists, It's made racism official" (The Guardian, 24/02/2000). He also said the report made very clear what the phrase 'institutionalised racism' means. "It's about outcomes. It's the way in which, for example, we have disproportionality in stop and search, disproportionality in numbers of black deaths in custody, and so on.

" So what have the public services learned from the Stephen Lawrence case? The Macpherson report into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence acted as a wake-up call to public services. As well as examining the problem of institutional racism in the police force, the report found that public bodies do not take the issue seriously. The government's response was the Race Relations Amendment Act, which aimed to stop racism within the public sector.

Unlike the 1976 Race Relations Act – which concerned itself with the private sector, the Act commands hospitals, police forces, prisons, schools, universities and other public bodies to take measures to promote good race relations with communities. In conclusion, the Macpherson report delivered seventy recommendations; many aimed specifically at improving police attitudes towards racism and improving the relationship between the police and ethnic communities. The report of the inquiry identified institutional racism as a major factor in the failed investigation into Stephen Lawrence's murder.

The identification of how racist stereotyping filters through police practices is clearly of significance. This was made evident in the BBC documentary called 'The Secret Policeman'. It revealed that no considerable changes have taken place, five years after the inquiry. The documentary illustrated how the police service was still recruiting racist officers, and it showed that institutional racism continues to exist throughout the police culture. Despite the issues raised in the documentary, no officers were dismissed as a result of their racist attitudes.

The inquiry report showed support from the Home Office in its enthusiasm to ensure the police recruit, retain and promote more people of Black and Asian origin so that the police service better reflects the community it serves. The report also improved the accountability of the police by involving independent authorities to monitor racial discrimination within the police force. Meaning individual officers can now be subject to investigation if a complaint is made against them and could therefore lead to dismissal.

Macpherson's new definition of a racist incident is one which the victim and/or witnesses allege the incident as racist. His amendment of the Race Relations Act meant that the full force of the race relations legislation should apply to all police officers. The abolition of double jeopardy enables the Court of Appeal to permit a person to be re-tried for the same crime, having initially been acquitted, if compelling new evidence should arise. Overall, evidence shows much has been done since the Macpherson report but there is always more room for improvement, as revealed in 'The Secret Policeman' documentary.