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Racist police penalty rejected.

Byline: David Barrett

New official guidelines on how to deal with racist police have significantly watered down one of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry's recommendations.

The Macpherson inquiry into the black teenager's murder ten years ago said that officers found to have been racist should usually be sacked.

But new rules from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) rejected that recommendation, saying that such a sweeping approach would lead to officers being 'highly defensive' and that as a result 'allegations would rarely be proved'. Instead, it suggests that allegations of discrimination should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

A PCA spokesman said: 'We don't agree with the blanket approach -it's too one size fits all. 'We agree that in very serious cases of deliberate racial abuse the ultimate sanction of sacking someone should be available.

'But there are occasions when incidents aren't that clear cut.'

He went on: 'Yes, we are stepping back from the Lawrence report regarding disciplinary action.

'We do think that we need a different approach to certain cases. We have got to have a proportionate approach and that may mean on occasion dismissal will not be merited.

'It has all got to be based on the circumstances of the case.'

Milena Buyum of the National Assembly Against Racism called for the guidelines to be re-written immediately.

'Racism should be treated as a very serious breach of conduct and to dilute the Lawrence recommendation in this way is not acceptable,' she said.

'Obviously every case should be treated on its merits.

'But it should be made clear to police officers that they cannot get away with it.'

Today's guideline document said: 'On occasion it will be entirely appropriate that an officer should face a tribunal for substantiated complaints of racial discrimination, but in those instances where the behaviour is clearly unwitting, there needs to be a disciplinary response that is closely directed at changing the behaviour or attitudes.

'These guidelines therefore recommend that in these cases, as in any other disciplinary matters, the penalty should take account of the officer's attitude when faced with a substantiated finding.'

It added: 'On some occasions, an officer may be found to have behaved inappropriately but the behaviour may have been fully in line with force practice.

'These cases should always be addressed as ancillary matters.'

Today's guidelines would also build on work done to give people who have complained about police racism more say in what happens to officers who were found to have acted in a discriminatory way, the report said.

Offering a 'restorative conference' in which a complainant had the chance to meet the officer could be a 'highly effective means of achieving change in an officer's behaviour'.

The report also gives extensive guidance to police investigating claims of racist behaviour by their colleagues.

The guidelines have beenwelcomed by the National Black Police Association, the Police Federation and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The PCA is to be replaced with a new organisation next April, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will have its own investigators to look into officers' alleged failings and misdemeanours.

Of 258 allegations of race discrimination reported to the PCA in 2001-2002, 242 were found to be unsubstantiated.

Six resulted in misconduct charges, two in an admonishment or written warning and four in advice to the officer. The remaining four were classed 'others'.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 11, 2003
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