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‘Deep-rooted’ racial disparities remain in policing, report finds

There have been “systemic failures” by successive governments and police forces to take racial inequality seriously enough, the report said

“PERSISTENT, deep-rooted and unjustified” racial disparities remain in policing, with the use of stop and search even more disproportionate than it was 20 years ago, a panel of MPs has found. 

The damning report by the home affairs select committe criticised progress in tackling racial injustice within policing 22 years on from the Macpherson report, which blamed “institutional racism” for officers’ failures to secure the conviction of the racists who killed black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

There have been “systemic failures” by successive governments and police forces to take racial inequality seriously enough, the report said. 

Among the problems highlighted was slow progress in recruiting more officers from ethnic minorities, who currently represent just 7 per cent of the total but 14 per cent of the population.

MPs said it was “inexcusable” that, at the present rate, forces would take decades to become representative of the communities they police.  

Shockingly, the report also found that the use of stop and search was more disproportionate than it was 22 years ago, stressing that there was no justification for this.

It highlighted figures from 2019 showing that black people were 2.4 times more likely to be subjected to drug possession searches than whites, despite being less likely to use narcotics. 

The report said that such failures “all point to structural problems that go beyond individual bias,” but it fell short of a finding of institutional racism. 

This week, the government announced proposals to increase stop-and-search powers, despite warnings that this would lead to greater discrimination. 

Home affairs select committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper said that while the Macpherson report had had a “huge impact” on policing and tackling racism when it was first published, progress had “stalled” since then.

“There are still persistent, deep-rooted problems and unjustified racial disparities in key areas where Sir William Macpherson made recommendations over 20 years ago,” she said. “That is unacceptable and must change.

“Without clear action to tackle race inequality, we fear that, in 10 years’ time, future committees will be hearing the very same arguments that have been rehearsed already for over 20 years. That cannot be allowed to happen.”

National Police Chiefs Council chairman Martin Hewitt welcomed the report, but he said it was of “deep regret” that changes to policing had not gone far or fast enough in 22 years. 

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “We know there is much more to do. That is why attracting more officers from a wide range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds is a core ambition of our drive to recruit an extra 20,000 officers.”

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