British police, racist police

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

At the end of October 2003, the BBC broadcast yet another documentary exposing racism in the British police. Although it contained no surprises, for the terminally naive it was the first ‘hard evidence’ of police racism. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

The Secret Policeman featured undercover journalist Mark Daly who had joined Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in January as a trainee at the Bruche national training centre in Warrington, Cheshire, where he led a double life for about seven months. During his time as a probationary constable he secretly filmed eight [out of 18] recruits expressing racist views such as that of PC Rob Pulling: ‘A dog that is born in a barn is still a dog. A Paki born in Britain is still a fucking Paki.’

Pulling had earlier fantasised about running Asians over with a train, and had then fashioned himself a Ku Klux Klan-style hood from a pillow-case, and laughed: ‘Shall we go next door [where the only Asian recruit was staying] and go [he made a stabbing movement]: “have that”?’ Other statements included: ‘[Stephen Lawrence] fucking deserved it and his mum and dad are a fucking pair of spongers’; ‘[Hitler] had the right idea, but he went about it the wrong way, mate’; ‘He’s a Paki and I’m stopping him ‘cos I’m fucking English. If you did not discriminate you would be a shit copper’; ‘Asians...Truthfully? Fuck them all off. I’ll admit it, I’m a racist bastard. I don’t mind black people. Asians? No.’

Government ministers’ and senior police chiefs’ response to the broadcast was predictable and familiar: damage limitation. The PCs concerned were either suspended or resigned. GMP launched a criminal investigation and every GMP officer was to get ‘advice and information on how to conduct themselves’ [sic]. A spokesman stated that the ‘acceptance levels of racism in the police was zero.’ Chief constables from every police force in England and Wales wrote to The Guardian, claiming there was ‘no room in the police service for any one with racist attitudes’, and that they would ‘not allow the core professional values of integrity, respect for diversity, compassion for others and commitment to public services to be tarnished by any individual seeking to join the service while not sharing those values’.

GMP Chief Constable Michael Todd wrote a ‘hard-hitting’ article in the local press, reminding us that the GMP had a ‘comprehensive’ race equality scheme and was ‘the first in the country to appoint a race and diversity officer’. He declared himself ‘disgusted,’ while his deputy Alan Green, was ‘shocked, sickened, ashamed and saddened’. Sir John Stevens, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was ‘absolutely appalled’ and had ‘never seen that type of racism in 41 years in the force’. (He should go to the canteen more often.) Home Secretary David Blunkett said the revelations were ‘horrendous’ and Home Office minister and local MP Hazel Blears was ‘quite shocked.’ Indeed ‘shock waves were sent through the country’, according to the media.

After the usual wailing and expressions of shock, a familiar message began to emerge: only a ‘very small number’ of police officers are racist and they have ‘let [the police] down’; the police have ‘robustly tackled racism in the service for many years’. Officers were ‘horrified’ and suspected that ‘right-wing extremists’ were ‘infiltrating’ the force, which was determined to ‘root them out’. These asinine comments about ‘infiltration’ were repeated by some senior black officers, wheeled out for Operation Damage Control. The police showed their determination to ‘root out’ racism earlier in August, when they arrested the journalist Mark Daly. His home was raided and many items seized, including his notes, which had the names of the racist recruits. He was questioned for 20 hours, released on bail, and charged with deception to obtain pecuniary advantage – falsely obtaining his salary of around £14,000 – and criminal damage to a police vest, by hiding a camera in it.

The police then launched a ‘full-scale’ investigation into every case handled by Daly during his four weeks as a trainee, including identifying all people he had come into contact with ‘to establish how this may affect them’. Needless to say, there was no inquiry to identify people the racist recruits had come into contact with, and how they might have been affected.

A police spokesman called the BBC’s actions ‘indefensible’, another claimed it was ‘unethical journalism’ and ‘reprehensible behaviour’ which may have ‘breached people’s human rights’. Daly had ‘undermined the work of the police and...failed to act with integrity’; Chief Constable Todd deplored ‘the BBC’s outrageous waste of public funds’. David Blunkett called the BBC’s actions a ‘stunt.’ He changed his tune after he saw the programme and apologised for his ‘mistake’, but later asked the BBC to ‘examine its conscience’.

Perhaps the ‘disgraced’ PC Andy Hall of GMP spoke the real truth when he said: ‘police are racist, mate, police are racist’. Yes, mate, we know.


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