The new commissioner of St Metropolitan police refused to say whether his force was institutionally racist or not, saying he was not interested in “labels”, while promising to eradicate racism from the force.
Sir Mark Rowley’s comments, as he gave a series of media interviews, were criticized by black officers and a survivor’s brother stephen lawrence, whose murder by a racist gang was blighted by the Met and which led to the McPherson Inquiry in 1999, which found the Met to be institutionally racist.
Stewart Lawrence accused the new Meteotrade commissioner of “deception” and insisted the recognition of the police chief, who has pledged to reform Britain’s biggest force, was crucial.
After weeks of planning, Rowley launched his mission to reform the Met, promising more trust, less crime and higher standards.
Race has been a longstanding issue for the Metwhich controls London, where more than 40% of people are ethnic minorities.
In his third week as commissioner, Rowley said scandals such as officers caught sharing hate messages in recent years showed racism was too entrenched in corners of the force, was “systemic” and had undermined the Met. He also believes the Met has been too “forgiving” of wrongdoing and has promised zero tolerance.
Speaking to crime correspondents, Rowley said: “We have a real problem with race. I’ve been very clear in what I’ve said about racism and other issues like misogyny that have undermined us. I also made it very clear that this was a systemic problem, that we were too weak in addressing it, and that it was too entrenched in the corners of the organization. And that weakness is about systems, leadership, culture, and a whole host of issues. So yes, we have a lot of work to do, and I’m not hiding from it.”
Asked if Met was there institutionally racist by McPherson’s definition, Rowley said: “We’ve got a number of issues to deal with, as I’ve said, and I’ll be quite honest about that. I’m not interested in using labels thrown around by… different people to cause different problems.
“I just have to be very practical about what the problems are and what I’m going to do about it. As I have said, I will be ruthless in rooting out this, racism and other bad behavior, and I will confront the systemic problems that have allowed it to flourish in a way it should not have done.”
Stuart Lawrence said: “Labels are important. To say, ‘I don’t believe in labels’ is a bit silly… it’s cheating.”
Inspector Chris Exell, chairman of the Met’s Black Police Association, said the leader of the Met – which, as a force in London, controls the area where the majority of Britain’s black population lives – should set an example to the rest of the country.
National Police The board of supervisors is struggling with the race plan, facing opposition from some officers who believe it goes too far and community voices who believe it is too weak. Excell said: “The Commissioner must be a leading voice at the heart of the NPCC’s racial inclusion plan, acknowledge institutional racism, apologize for it and demonstrate that the Met stands up against racism and bias.
“London has to lead and that starts at the top of the Met. If we don’t have the humility to acknowledge institutional racism, we don’t move forward, we continue to walk in circles of mistrust in society.”
Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said: “To us the evidence is clear, the Met still meets the definition of institutional racism as defined by McPherson. Acknowledging institutional racism is a sign that things will be different this time.”
Rowley predecessor, Cressida Dicksaid the Met was not institutionally racist, and her predecessor, Bernard Hogan-Howe, said he won’t argue with anyone who says the Met was. His predecessor, Sir Paul Stevensonwas the first commissioner to declare the Met out of business in 2009 after the McPherson Inquiry found it institutionally racist a decade earlier.