EXCL Elements of Met Police still institutionally racist, says Doreen Lawrence

Posted On: 
17th May 2018

Parts of the Metropolitan Police are still "institutionally racist" and young black people continue to be victimised by officers, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has said.

Doreen Lawrence is a Labour peer
Credit: 
Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Doreen Lawrence said that bobbies on the beat “have no relation to the community that they’re policing” and suggested that society is still as racist as it was at the time of her son’s death 25 years ago.

The Labour peer, who was born in Jamaica, also slammed the “disgraceful” treatment of the Windrush generation, which she said was a “race issue” and another example of black people’s voices being silenced.

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And she hit back at a former detective in her son’s murder investigation who accused her in a BBC documentary of using a “gimmick” of not smiling when in front of the media.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered on 22 April 1993 by a gang of white youths in an unprovoked knife attack in Eltham, south-east London.

The subsequent handling of the investigation by the Metropolitan police led to the landmark Macpherson inquiry in 1999, which concluded that the force was "institutionally racist".

In an interview with the House magazine, Baroness Lawrence was asked whether the Met continued to be guilty of the charge levelled at it by Sir William Macpherson nearly 19 years ago.

"I think there’s elements still there because they still don’t understand – they still don’t get it – that you cannot treat people like that,” she said.

Baroness Lawrence pointed to police behaviour towards young black people in the community as evidence, arguing that while stop and search “has its place” the powers must be “intelligence-led”.

"I feel that officers on the beat, they have no relation to the community that they’re policing,” she told The House. "They think because they’ve got the power they should be able to do what they like – no, you’re not.

"I just feel that those sorts of conversations and that sort of training does not happen in the way in which it should.

“That’s why we have the discourse between the young people and the police officers because they think they can speak down to them, which the kids are not going to put up with. So, you have this confrontation all the time.

“The police need to understand that you need the community’s consent to police you. If they understood that and had a proper rapport with young people, I don’t think we’d have the problems that we do have with young people and the police.”

When asked whether relations between the police and the black community had been healed since the murder of her son, she replied: “I don’t think they’ve been repaired, no. No. If you listen to the young people, no it hasn’t.”

WINDRUSH

Baroness Lawrence, who is a member of the human rights organisation Liberty, moved to the UK aged nine before Jamaica became an independent country.

She said the treatment of the Windrush generation - many of whom have had their access to public services denied amid questions about their UK citizenship - has been “disgraceful”.

“People in the Commonwealth were invited here. They were invited to work on the buses, work on the hospitals, all the jobs that the white English people did not want to do,” she said.

“They came over and even qualified teachers came and couldn’t go into the profession. Qualified nurses couldn’t, even though they were. So, the victimisation and stereotyping started right from there."

She added: “It is a double whammy. When they arrived, they were discriminated against and now they’re discriminated against. I have to tell them this is a race issue. It is and nobody will call it as a race issue. But that’s what it is. It’s only people from the Commonwealth who are affected.”

When asked whether she felt her grandchildren were growing up in a society that is less racist than when her son was murdered, she said: “That’s really hard. I had a discussion with young people and more or less the same things of what happened 25 years ago, they’re still feeling that.

“They’re still being victimised by the police. There was one young man who was talking about from the age of 10, how many times he’s been stopped - at the age of 10.

“It makes me start thinking that my grandsons are not too far off the age of 10 and what are we going to do about that?”

BBC DOCUMENTARY

The BBC in April ran a three-part documentary titled The Murder than Changed a Nation to mark the 25th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s murder.

During filming, Bill Mellish, a former detective who took over the investigation in 1994, accused Baroness Lawrence of using the “gimmick” of refusing to smile.

When asked about the programme, she said: “At the end of the day, what did I have to smile about when my son was murdered and you were being idiots and didn’t investigate because you’re in the pocket of some gangster? What did I have to smile about?

“Every time I hear when they speak, it was like during the court case. One officer said that he wasn’t even offered a cup of tea when he came to my house. Get real.

“So, when you hear those little bit of things, you just think what are we supposed to be doing? Are we supposed to be having a party because my son has been murdered? ‘Come in and have a drink, let me share things with you’.

“It’s like we have no feelings. We, from the black community, things like this should happen to us because you’ve got no feelings whatsoever and we can do what we want, we can say what we like to you and that’s it.

“This is what’s happening around the Windrush now – we can do what we like and these people do not have a voice.”

Two people, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of Mr Lawrence’s murder in 2012 when new evidence against them came to light. It is thought that up to six people were involved in the attack.