Darcus Howe on police getting away with racism

So now our police officers are to be forgiven for not understanding inner-city culture

How does the Police Complaints Authority respond to allegations from the public that police officers have acted in a racist way? Officers investigate their brethren; they may or may not recommend that the offending officer appears before a disciplinary tribunal from which judgement is handed down. Section 57 of the Macpherson report, which followed the mess that surrounded the Stephen Lawrence investigation, made it clear that dismissal from the service was a reasonable punishment for racial violations. But the PCA's recently published guidelines say that officers may not be aware of the diversity of cultures in the public domain and, in such circumstances, the goodly officer must be retrained.

The PCA has produced the most comprehensive gobbledegook I have ever read on an issue of race. It substitutes an algebraic formula titled DX3 + E for common sense, then gets lost in a forest of bureaucrat-speak. No automatic dismissal for racism now. The PCA has excavated cases to illustrate how impossible it is for nice and kindly officers to understand the mass of cultures at large in the inner city. Yet, as a veteran of this struggle, I can tell at the drop of a hat when a racist is at large.

For 50 years now, the Caribbean community in Britain has learnt the scent of racism. An entire language has been developed to describe the features of police power, formed and shaped in the crucible of racial antagonism. Every single movement and statement is monitored in the mind and weighed up against the experiences of the past. And now the PCA tells us that these unassailable truths are insufficient to prove racism.

My last child, Zoe, has imbibed from her parents and siblings experiences of times past. Last week she was visiting her boyfriend in south London after work and was walking a little way behind him with their friends. He leant against the wall of his house and the police advanced, began searching and questioning him as though he was a common little black criminal. Her quiet and rigorous questioning earned her the abuse "You are a fucking thug".

Her mum wanted her to complain to the PCA, but I said no. No compromise now. Get on the computer, I said, circulate your experience to your friends across south London and even through a chatroom. We need to draw a ring of steel around your detractors. Let battle commence and to hell with the PCA.

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