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Assessing the impact of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

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A report, Assessing the Impact of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, was published yesterday (Thursday 27 October) by the UK Home Office, authored by LSE academics.

The report by Dr Janet Foster|, Professor Tim Newburn| and Dr Anna Souhami from the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at LSE was commissioned by the Lawrence Steering Group via the Home Office Research, Statistics and Development division. It is one of the most extensive and detailed ever carried out on policing in England and Wales.

Undertaken between 2002-04, the research attempted to establish the impact of the Lawrence Inquiry on police culture, police policies, operational practices, and the confidence of minority ethnic communities in the police.

The researchers found that The Lawrence Inquiry appears to have been an important lever for change in the police service and there have been some substantial and positive changes in:

  • responses to hate crime;
  • liaison with families of murder victims;
  • the management of murder investigation; and
  • consultation with local communities.

However, the research identifies a number of continuing problems. In particular, there remains considerable misunderstanding of the term 'institutional racism' within the police service. This has led to considerable resentment among officers and also appears to have hampered progress in relation to some of the most important areas of the Lawrence Inquiry's recommendations.

Professor Tim Newburn said: 'The term institutional racism continues to cause considerable anger within the police service - partly because it is still so widely misunderstood. While 'institutional racism' was the single most powerful message officers received from the Lawrence Inquiry, many police staff continue to think that it signifies a widespread problem of racist attitudes and behaviour among police staff, rather than the ways in which routine police practices might unintentionally and indirectly discriminate against particular communities. As a consequence, many of these issues are poorly addressed by the police service.

'While there are no simple solutions to the complex problems highlighted by the Lawrence Inquiry, it is vital that these issues are not allowed to slip off the political agenda.'

Dr Anna Souhami said: 'While the Lawrence Inquiry has brought about some positive and important developments, many forces are still some way from grasping the full implications of the term institutional racism. As a result, some minority ethnic communities continue to receive a less than adequate service.

'Further, while the police services have focused very successfully on eliminating racist language among its staff, sexist and homophobic language remains widespread and many women and minority officers and staff continue to feel marginalised and discriminated against.'

Dr Janet Foster said: 'It is vital that police officers at all levels recognise that the issues raised by the Lawrence Inquiry Report are not about political correctness but about treating people with respect, sensitivity and according to their needs - principles that should be central to all policing activities.

'Although our research identified some important changes in the climate of policing following the Lawrence Inquiry many minority staff felt uncomfortable and marginal to the organisation. It is difficult to see how the police can deliver an adequate service to diverse communities if their own staff experience isolation and perceive themselves to be disadvantaged. The research suggests that police officers require a better understanding of institutional racism and its potential impact on minority ethnic groups. Greater emphasis needs to be given to this in all aspects of policing activity and in police training'.

Full report at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hors294.pdf|

Ends

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Press cuttings

Scotsman
Sexism 'rife' in police service
(2 Dec 05)
Homophobia and sexism remain widespread in the police service, leaving large numbers of officers feeling excluded and discriminated against, according to a study for the Home Office. 

Times Online
Sexism and homophobia still 'endemic' in all police forces (2 Dec 05)
Sexism and homophobia are still rampant in the police service, leaving hundreds of men and women feeling excluded and discriminated against, according to a study for the Home Office. According to Tim Newburn, LSE, one of the authors, said: "Sexism was endemic, that is to say everywhere. Not just in every force we surveyed, but in every part of every force."

Personnel Today
Sexism and homophobia endemic to UK police service (2 Dec 05)

Gay.com

This is London 

Hounslow chronicle (and many other local papers)
Sexism 'rife' in police service (2 Dec)

28 October 2005

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