Dr Richard Stone's Letter In FullDear Mr Hogan-Howe
I see with horror, as I suspect you do, media stories alleging blatant racist behaviour by police officers.
Blatant racism by police officers has, regrettably, a long history especially in inner-city boroughs. It is what got me involved in the antiracist struggle in the 1970s in Notting Hill where I was a local doctor. It has been exposed from time to time, for example in the 2003 Secret Policeman Panorama programme.
In my 20 years as an NHS GP I developed a great respect for the professionalism of most of the police officers I worked with locally. They and I felt let down by those who abused their powers to act and get away with unprofessional racist behaviour.
15 years ago in 1997 I was drawn deeply into analysing police racism as a panel member of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, adviser to the judge Sir William Macpherson. In 2008/09 I researched and wrote a review of the Inquiry 10 years on, which was launched by the then Justice, Home and Community Secretaries at their 10th anniversary conference.
I welcome your commitment to changes in stop and search which will reduce the overall numbers yet increase successful outcomes. These changes fit well with the four recommendations in the Inquiry’s report on stop and search.
Both approaches actually aim to limit the discretion of constables to abuse their powers, so it is not surprising that there has been resistance to these changes.
Now I ask you to go further. Enough of analysis! Enough of definitions.
Enough of pilot schemes. Enough of thick volumes of proposals for the future. Tell everyone under you just to stop it. Then tell them again, and again: year after year.
Discussion about racism, and education about it have been going on since the Scarman report on the Brixton riots in 1981. Mr & Mrs Lawrence, parents of Stephen Lawrence, have showed millions in this country what it means to be black in a white-dominated society: you are liable to get a lesser service from police, doctors, teachers, and from anyone else, than if you are white.
No one in this country can justify saying they don’t know when their words or actions ‘disadvantage minority ethnic people’, to use the words of our definition in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.
What has been missing all along has been sustained leadership from the top and it is this that I ask of you now.
Leadership from the top can achieve major change. After the London bombings experts expected vilification and even violence against British Muslims. It didn't happen, and it was because the Prime Minister and other leaders marked out the bombers not as Muslims, but as violent extremists.
Regardless of the outcome of the current allegations in the Met, now is as good a time as any for you to speak out against any racism in police services, whether overt or institutional; direct or indirect; or as described in any other way.
When General Colin Powell took over as chief of staff of the Army of the USA, he is reputed as saying “As of next Monday, in this army racism is out. Off limits!”
I am copying this open letter to other leaders.
Because the stimulus has come from a case within the Metropolitan Police, that makes it natural for you to take the lead in leading other leaders.
It is an honourable and fine role to take.
Yours very sincerely
Dr Richard Stone