Head of Britain’s police chiefs is the most senior serving leader to say force is ‘institutionally racist’ calling for fundamental redesign

Monday 5 January 2024

British policing is institutionally racist, according to a senior police chief.

Gavin Stephens, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said it was his personal view that discrimination in policing operated at an “institutional level”.

He added that black people are still experiencing disproportionate use of force, adding not enough progress had been made to reform policing.

Discussing Mr Stephens's claims, TalkTV's Alex Philips said: "It seems to me there is this trend that has come over the pond after the whole BLM and 'defund the police' movement where people try and look at everything through the prism of racism.

"Now, if you are someone who has been on the receiving end of unnecessary police aggression, regardless of the colour of your skin, that is not right.

"But the difficulty about when you get these headlines is they then roll like policies that have a direct real world impact such as really pulling back on things like stop and search.

"We've got a massive uptick in knife crime because police feel like they cannot stop people and search them for very dangerous weapons.

Stephens is the most senior serving leader to claim that policing is institutionally racist

"Now, if you feel insulted that a policeman stops you in a park and says right, I'm going to pat you down to see what you're carrying, and you'd rather that didn't happen, but someone gets stabbed around the corner, I mean, you've got it all wrong."

TalkTV's Kevin O'Sullivan said: "The Met Police Chief Mark roundly rejected suggestions that the Met was institutionally racist. Now you've got the leader of Britain's police chief's saying just the opposite.

"This will really pile the pressure on Sir Mark Rowley although he's probably very, very busy investigating war crimes in Gaza!"

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Stephens said: “It’s a leadership responsibility for us to describe to them what it [institutional racism] means and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that all police officers are racist.

“The way our policies, procedures [and] training have been designed and implemented for many years have not had the voices of black people involved in the design, the implementation, of those practices. And as a consequence of that, we get disproportionate outcomes in places where there shouldn’t be disproportionate outcomes.

“The most helpful discussion for policing to have in the future is how we redesign the policies, the practices, the implementation, of policing to remove that discrimination.”

In 1999 a report by Sir William Macpherson on the failings that allowed the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence to escape justice also concluded the force was institutionally racist.

The troubled force has been working to rebuild its reputation after a series of scandals and a savage review by Baroness Louise Casey that found it was racist, misogynist and homophobic.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has refused to accept his officers were “institutionally racist” and “institutionally misogynistic”.

After the murder of George Floyd in the US and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the NPCC promised reform and launched a race action plan. Critics say little has been achieved.