Surge in racism claims against Met police
Scale of allegations revealed as Boris Johnson announces review of measures to eradicate racism within force
Bernard Hogan-Howe and Boris Johnson, who have announced a review of efforts to eradicate racism within the Met. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has admitted there is “more to do” to tackle racism in the Metropolitan police after it emerged that 51 complaints related to allegations of racism have been made to the police watchdog in the past two months.
The welter of complaints lodged since 1 April was revealed by the Labour chair of London’s police and crime committee, Joanne McCartney, as she challenged Johnson over the true scale of racism within Scotland Yard.
Making his first personal appearance in front of the committee since it replaced the Metropolitan Police Authority, disbanded in January, Johnson said: “I think any incident of racism is too much.”
He said “we’ve moved on” from the term “institutional racism” first defined by the Macpherson report, adding: “I prefer to say this. I think great progress has been made but there is more to do.”
Hogan-Howe, who was appointed last September, reiterated that he would not tolerate racism within his force and vowed to introduce changes to ensure that racist officers “know that they’ve got no home in the Met”.
Johnson, who was re-elected as mayor at the start of the month, pre-empted criticism about the growing race scandal following a catalogue of recent allegations by announcing before the Thursday meeting his decision to launch a review of measures introduced to eradicate racism within the Met police.
The mayor’s office for policing and crime (MOPC) is to review the progress made on recommendations made in the Race and Faith inquiry report, published in July 2010, which Johnson commissioned two years before to tackle racism in the force. It will report in the autumn.
Recommendations included ensuring the Met open up senior positions to people from different backgrounds, and making it easier for staff to apply for internal promotions and transfers.
Johnson told the committee: “It’s important that we look at where we are now in respect of the recommendations made by the race and faith inquiry; the progress made and how we are getting on now.”
He conceded that progress in recruiting officers from black minority ethnic backgrounds, which has gone up from 8% to 10%, was “not nearly enough” to ensure the police force reflects the community it serves, and wanted to help the police to come up with “practical concrete steps to accelerate that process.”
“We need to go much further and we need to be recruiting from communities across London and one of the things the Race and Faith inquiry recommended was multi-point entry,” said Johnson.
“We need to see how that is happening, whether that can be made to work in a more effective way, what proactive steps we can take with role models, with successful examples of recruitment to go out into communities and to recruit people from around London and to get them into our police service. That I think is what Londoners will want to see us do”.
He told the committee that the MOPC will also be looking additionally looking at the MacPherson recommendations made thirteen years ago following the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence “to see how those are being implemented and to see the extent of progress there.”
But he was pressed on why the recommendations laid out in the Race and Faith inquiry had not already been implemented by his previous deputy mayor for policing, Kit Malthouse, who was moved earlier this month to be Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise.
Johnson, who since 2010 has delegated policing to a deputy mayor, was facing the cross-party panel of assembly members as he waits for his newly appointed deputy mayor for policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, to start in post.
Insisting Malthouse had done a “fantastic job”, Johnson said: “It is happening, work is going on but I think it would be right because this is so much about confidence. This is about the signs we are giving, that we reflect public anxiety, there’s been a lot in the papers about allegations of racism against the Met, people will have seen it, it’s been on the news, there’s an awful lot around to cause concern. We have got to make sure we are on the front foot, that we are showing we understand people’s anxieties, that we are here to make sure this police force reflects London.”
A spokeswoman for the IPCC confirmed the number of complaints received.
“The IPCC has received 51 referrals from the MPS [Metropolitan police service] of complaints/conduct matters where an allegation of racism has been made and where the alleged misconduct took place after 1 April 2012. Of these 51 referrals, nine have been sent back to the force for local handling and 42 are being supervised by the IPCC.”
The assembly members heard that Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, plans a “cultural audit” of the Met as part of an internal programme of “culture change” in the Met.
Hogan-Howe told the panel that he had originally aimed to see changes “embedded” from 2013 onwards, but he had been spurred to step up the pace as a result of the complaints that have surfaced.
“I don’t think it necessarily condemns the past to say you want to improve in the future,” he said. “I think it’s vital that we always challenge ourselves but clearly in these complaints if any of them are true and for that to be tested, there are things there we need to sort out. And so for that reason I think it’s vitally important that we make sure that racists know that they’ve got no home in the Met, and I’ve tried to make that as clear as possible verbally. Now we have to embark on a plan … and make sure that we deliver organisationally.”
Hogan-Howe said the respective authorities had “moved quickly” on the original 11 cases of alleged Met racism under investigation, two of which had resulted in criminal charges following Crown Prosecution Service reviews. He said another six allegations investigated internally by the Met were now concluded, and “where there are charges to make” these would lead to gross misconduct and misconduct charges. Another five cases with the IPCC are awaiting their conclusion.
The Metropolitan Black Police Association welcomed the public commitments to drive out racism from the Metropolitan Police Service.
Bevan Powell, chair of the Met BPA said: “Eradicating racism from the Met requires strong leadership and today’s comments from the commissioner and mayor Boris Johnson are welcomed.”
He added that the MetBPA were already working with Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe on the Commissioner’s cultural change programme.