Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/322/9644
Police Racism - Caught Red-Handed
"IT WAS just revolting. These were young thugs. We have to say to ourselves, what is the difference between them and the people who murdered Stephen Lawrence? I never saw anything like this even 25 years ago"
said one viewer after seeing the BBC documentary The Secret Policeman. Another said it made him feel "physically sick".
By Hugo Pierre
These weren't comments from the parents of Colin Roach, Brian Douglas, Roger Sylvester and many other Black young men many believe were murdered in police custody. These were the comments of a senior Metropolitan Police officer and a Deputy Chief Constable in North Wales. But what were they shocked about?
The Greater Manchester Police Force certainly were shocked that the programme was aired. The Observer on 26 October revealed how the Greater Manchester Chief Police Constable, Mike Todd, tried to get the BBC to pull the programme. They went as far as to threaten to stop co-operating with the BBC's Crimewatch programme.
David Blunkett, the New Labour Home Secretary, claimed the programme was "a covert stunt to get attention" for the BBC before having to admit his remarks were a "mistake". But his Permanent Secretary also wrote to the BBC questioning the methods used to make the documentary in an attempt to get the programme pulled.
The Secret Policeman showed a group of white police recruits at a training college explaining how they treated Asians and Blacks badly for minor offences, dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members, stating Stephen Lawrence (Black victim of a racist murder) deserved it and displaying hatred in particular for Asians.
Tony Blair as well as a host of Chief Police Constables felt forced to explain that the majority of police officers were not racist but they had to root out the "small minority" with these views. Some Chief Constables blamed the views of this 'small minority' on the general level of racism in society.
Police forces around the country have now been thrown into crisis. Not a single Black or Asian worker will believe this myth that has been used to excuse police racism since the 1970's!
ONE OF the key targets from the McPherson Inquiry (the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence) was to increase minority ethnic recruitment into the police so that it better reflected local communities. This has failed dramatically - in Greater Manchester a recent inspection of the service found 'a culture of racism and sexism'.
This is the force which claimed before the Oldham riots in 2001, that Asian youth were responsible for most of Oldham's street crime and in effect organised an Asian curfew whilst allowing the BNP to organise on the streets. Only 3.2% of officers are Black or Asian in Manchester, 1.6% in Merseyside and a remarkable seven out of 1,553 in North Wales.
The Metropolitan Police Force in London is crisis-ridden after the Black Police Association called for Blacks and Asians to boycott police recruitment.
Two high profile cases - a failed £7 million corruption case against Superintendent Ali Dezaei (the highest ranking Muslim police officer - see box page 7) and a six-figure payout to Sergeant Gurpal Virdi, a victim of race discrimination - and evidence that Black police staff are five times more likely to face disciplinary action forced them to act.
Even without this boycott the Met has failed to meet its 25% target miserably with just under 6% from minority ethnic communities.
But to Blacks and Asians the only surprise from The Secret Policeman is that filmed evidence has finally come out. The experience of Black and Asian youth on the street is of continual discrimination and harassment - seven times more likely to be stopped than a white person. The number of investigations against the police for racism has doubled since 1998 according to the CRE.
The main role of the police has been to maintain the position of the establishment (the rich and powerful, big business, the state machine) and those who benefit from it.
Police crime-solving methods have always resorted to finding the 'odd-man-out'. Black and Asian youth, who did not conform to the standard, have always been singled out and a set of stereotypes was absorbed by most officers. The few Blacks and Asians who joined were often forced into adopting these stereotypes or forced out of the service.
Training officers not to use racist language does not train an individual officer to be anti-racist, as The Secret Policeman showed. Only an explanation of how racism was developed, as a tool to divide the working class, and used systematically in Britain and around the world to secure the position of the ruling class could begin to undermine the deep-seated prejudices that are institutionalised in the police force.
This won't happen under New Labour! Blunkett, whilst accepting that institutional racism could exist, denied it was happening in his police forces around the country and wanted to concentrate on forcing out the small minority of so-called bad apples, when interviewed on the BBC's Start the Week.
Lack of trust
THE COMPLETE lack of trust in the police in Black and Asian communities since the 1970's was only removed slightly after the McPherson Inquiry when leading Black politicians in and around New Labour dropped their campaigns against police racism and called instead for the full implementation of McPherson's weak recommendations.
They decided to back Operation Trident - the Metropolitan Police Force's 'crackdown' on gun crime. The police claim research shows that 80% of Londoners now trust them. But this is completely unstable, when senior officers responsible for implementing anti-racist policies such as Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police believe 'racism will never be eradicated' from the police force.
However, police racism is seriously hampering the ability of the police to crack the recent spate of shootings of Black youths, including the recent horrific gangland assassination of seven year old Toni-Ann Byfield.
Contrary to hype, the police's main investigation tool is not the latest scientific gadget whether it be CCTV, fingerprint detection or DNA tests, but information. Informants are the key to cracking any crime and ironically police racism has prevented the police from establishing a network of informants in Black and Asian areas. This means, even in high profile cases, the police often have no leads.
Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone's Race and Policing Advisor, blamed the rise in 'Ghetto fabulous' culture amongst Black youth as the real reason for the rise in gun crime. This message was reinforced in Channel 4's recent programme Thug Life which asked groups of Black youth about so-called Black-on-Black killings.
It claimed that 'Gangsta' rappers were the only role model for many Black youths. Trevor Phillips, Head of the CRE, pointed the finger at Black men for failing as fathers and role models by leaving women to raise families as lone parents.
These so-called leaders, both nationally and locally, in truth are tied into the explosion in paper policies, committees and forums since the McPherson Inquiry. On the street Black and Asian communities have become more excluded from mainstream society.
Reports after the Northern riots in 2001 showed how many Muslim Asian communities have been isolated and segregated by years of exclusion from public sector provision. Poverty in Black and Asian communities provides young people with no hope and a vision of unattainable consumerism.
Thug Life showed the effects that 25% Black youth unemployment (twice the local average) had on those young people's outlook. This was compounded with lack of resources - schools, youth facilities.
One scene showed a ripped up Astroturf football pitch (I can personally vouch for the desperate state of facilities like this where you could jeopardise your football career).
Gus John, the ex-Director of Education interviewed in Thug Life was directly responsible for the closure of many of Hackney's Youth and School facilities! Even at school many of these youths are simply not believed and the authorities ignore claims of bullying and intimidation, leading many of the youth interviewed to draw the conclusion that they had to 'deal with it' themselves.
BLACK AND Asian communities now have to find a solution to the crime wave brought into their communities by drugs and guns. The lack of confidence in the police is expected but the lack of self-confidence to deal with this is the result of the failed policies of so-called Black leaders.
Why didn't they call a mass demonstration after the killing of Toni-Ann, instead of just offering sympathy and condolences?
Panther, the Black socialist party, and Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) organised an 8,000-strong demonstration immediately after the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which helped to mobilise mass support locally and nationally against the BNP headquarters in the area and against racist attacks.
Similarly a mass anti-racist campaign was mobilised in Tower Hamlets and Welling in the mid-1990s to defeat the growth of racism.
A mass movement must be linked to changing the police force. A police force that was democratically accountable to the local committees, elected representatives from trade unions, youth and community groups and other workers' organisations, which set operational standards and objectives, would really encourage the best from the community to join, not the dregs as at present.
But under capitalist control the police are always forced to prioritise the interests of the rich and powerful first. After their role as strike-breakers in the miners' strike of 1984/85 the police lost trust in most of the mining communities.
Change in the police must be allied to a programme to radically change society. Britain's wealth must be brought under the workers' control. Only when this has been done will the eradication of poverty, bad housing, poor facilities and lack of educational opportunities become a real priority initially through the reallocation of the vast wealth in society.
Racism, divide and rule will no longer be needed in a society where the majority have a real say in the running of society rather than at present where a minority actively protect their enormous wealth at the expense of the majority. Under these circumstances a police force would defend the gains of the majority and have real community trust.
"It's Not Just A Few Racist Officers"
Interview with Delroy Lindo
DELROY LINDO was arrested over 50 times by the police, including at least 19 attempts to convict him on trumped-up charges. He eventually had an investigation prove he was a victim of police racism. Delroy spoke to Naomi Byron about racism and the police.
"I feel that not enough is done in weeding out the racist police before they come into training itself. It's nothing new; it's something that Black people have always been complaining about.
"Black people and other ethnic minorities are on the front line and they are actually seeing and feeling it. They've always known it, but when it's actually uncovered in this way it really makes the police feel bad to know that somebody has infiltrated them.
"The police say that once they get rid of the few racist police officers that will solve the problem, but it doesn't solve the problem. Because what we have is racism from the top and you have to counter that racism head on from the top down, that's the only way you will tackle it.
"They need to be more accountable to the public because policing is supposed to be by consent. But we're really not getting on the inside in terms of accountability. They allow us only a small bit, not right the way in so that we can see what's going on from the inside totally. And this is where the problem is.
"As I know very well, when the police should be indicted they are not indicted, officers aren't getting disciplined for racism, harassment or deaths in custody.
"You only need to take a look into Tottenham with the Sylvester case. Look how long it took the Sylvester family to fight to get where they are at the moment. The police didn't want to suspend the officers in the first place.
"A family that has gone through death, why do they need to be suffering like this? The amount of pressure the family has been under, while they have been trying to find out the truth and going through red tape, they should be channelling all their grief into consoling their family, not into fighting the police, when the police know what they should have dealt with.
"Any Equal Opportunities training can't just say to police officers 'you can't use this language'. What they're saying to them is 'don't use this word, find another way so you can't get caught'.
"The police should be dealing with people on an individual basis, there should be more logic and structure behind the training methods used to counteract racism if they were really dealing in depth with the individuals that are joining the force.
"We on the streets want to know that the officers who are going to carry out they're daily duties can be trusted, but at the moment we can't say that.
"With that programme coming to light, I can only see the doors opening. Public pressure will start ensuring the police do something about it, probably change the rules about how they're recruiting. They try to cover up everything and try to do damage limitation.
"So when the programme came out, you find the police are on the air the next day trying to say 'we do this' and 'we do that' to ensure the police are not racist. If the general public had not seen that programme, the police would have kept it under cover just as they normally do."
Public relations nightmare forces police U-turn
SCOTLAND YARD has been forced to reinstate one of its few senior ethnic minority police officers, whom they had suspended over what were labelled 'bizarre' corruption allegations.
Superintendent Ali Dizaei had been cleared at the Old Bailey of criminal charges after a four-year, £7 million inquiry by his own force which was widely seen as a racist witch-hunt.
The Superintendent admitted falling "below the standards expected of a senior police officer" (!) and making a threatening phone call to a former girlfriend. But Metropolitan Police officers hated Dizaei as a leading critic of racism in the police and accused him of being a threat to national security, abusing drugs and using prostitutes.
The treatment of Ali Dizaei, a high-profile, well-paid policeman, led black officers to boycott police efforts to recruit more ethnic minority officers. That together with fears that the Met may have had to pay far more in damages to the superintendent and the continued fallout from The Secret Policeman have led to this embarrassing about-face.
The TV programme has also led the Commission for Racial Equality to launch a formal inquiry into all police forces in England and Wales, which is expected to make recommendations by spring 2004.
Law and new order
THE RACIST and fascist sympathies amongst the police exposed by The Secret Policeman documentary could be the tip of a large iceberg.
Dudley BNP councillor Simon Darby claims there are between six and 12 party members serving with the West Midlands Police. Its reported that BNP members are also serving in several police forces including the Metropolitan Police.
The fascist councillor also claimed that a former force inspector, John Phazey, was on the shortlist to run as a BNP candidate in next year's European elections.
The West Midlands police is synonymous with corruption and racism.
The West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad was finally disbanded in 1989 after years of serious allegations of corruption and racism. One victim, George Lewis, spent five-and-a-half years in jail for armed robbery after a confession was beaten out of him by squad officers while racially abusing him.
In The Socialist 8 November 2003: