IOPC announces review into racial bias in policing

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is to launch an inquiry into whether officers across England and Wales racially discriminate against ethnic minorities.

Jul 10, 2020
By Website Editor
Michael Lockwood

The review will focus on the use of force and stop and search amid tensions over the police’s handling of recent cases that have been caught on camera.

IOPC Director-General Michael Lockwood said the review will attempt “to establish the trends and patterns which might help drive real change in policing practice”.

He said: “Evidence of disproportionality in the use of police powers has long been a concern which impacts on confidence in policing, particularly in the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities.

“But even with the numbers and the statistics, particularly from stop and search data, we still need to better understand the causes and what can and should be done to address this.

“In the coming months, we will be launching race discrimination as a thematic area of focus to establish the trends and patterns which might help drive real change in policing practice.
“Thematic case selection involves independently investigating more cases where racial discrimination may be a factor in order to develop a body of evidence to identify systemic issues which should be addressed.”

It comes after Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick apologised this week to athlete Bianca Williams for the “distress” caused by a stop and search.

A video of the incident, which saw the Great Britain sprinter and her partner Ricardo dos Santos pulled from their car in a London street, was posted online by former Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie.

Mr Lockwood, who noted the IOPC sees only a small number of cases where discrimination is alleged, said: “Initially we will focus on investigating more cases where there is an indication that disproportionality impacts the BAME community, including stop and search and use of force.

“We will also be investigating more cases where victims from BAME communities have felt unfairly treated by the police.”

This could include whether the police are treating allegations of hate crime from BAME people seriously, and if there are cases where they are failing to treat them as victims of crime.

According to The Guardian, the MPS receives more than 250 complaints alleging racism on average each year, and less than one per cent are upheld.

Mr Lockwood added: “Increasing our focus on investigating cases where racial discrimination may be a factor means we will be able to really look at these encounters between the police and the public to identify any emerging themes. We can than see if there is a need to change policing policy or practice.

“This is about identifying where we are seeing good and bad practice, and where there are then opportunities to drive real learning and change.

“We know this is an issue of community concern. Our police forces can only police effectively with the trust and confidence of the community they serve.”

In response, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for complaints and misconduct, Chief Constable Craig Guildford, said: “Complaints and allegations of racism against officers are taken very seriously and a thorough investigation is always launched to establish the facts.

“We welcome this independent oversight. Scrutiny on what we do and how we keep our communities safe is vital if we are to maintain trust with the public and we will engage fully with it.

“It is important for both complainants and officers involved that issues are dealt with in a timely manner so any action needed can be taken.”

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