Nothing Changes?

May 19, 2007

In the new-fangled world of ID cards and DNA, police attitudes on race remain stuck in the pastLaura SmithTuesday May 15, 2007 The Guardian

Being in possession of a black or brown skin has never been much of an advantage when it comes to dealing with the criminal justice system. But figures released by the Home Office have revealed just how many from Britain’s minorities are being targeted.

A quarter of those whose DNA details have been stored on the national police database after being arrested, but not charged or convicted, were black, Asian, Chinese or Middle Eastern. As these groups form 9% of the overall population, it means that innocent members of ethnic-minority communities are almost three times more likely than innocent white people to have details of their DNA on the database – and up to eight times more likely in rural areas such as Avon and Somerset.

These figures will confirm what minorities have known for a long time: that we are far less likely than white people to be allowed to go about our everyday business undisturbed. They will also reinforce the feeling that police find it hard to view members of ethnic minorities as anything other than suspect – even when they are demonstrably the victims of crime. The database also includes DNA samples from victims and witnesses who have given their “consent”. One can only wonder how many white, affluent suburban dwellers are asked for a DNA swab after calling the local bobby to a break-in.

Such intrusions look set to become more common if the government pushes ahead with identity cards, due to come into force next year. While carrying a card will not be compulsory for Britons, it will be for non-EU nationals – handily covering the majority of non-white migrants. How many times will police officers fail to differentiate between a British or European-born black or Asian person and somebody who has arrived from outside the EU?

Despite a range of safeguards – and a great deal of hand-wringing since the Stephen Lawrence case – the police still routinely misuse their discretionary powers. Black people are five times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched – 14 times more likely in predominantly white suburbs. Stops of black people are more likely to involve searches, including strip searches, and to end in arrest. When police action is challenged further down the line, for example when the Crown Prosecution Service decides if cases are worth pursuing, those involving black people are more likely to break down. And the Home Office itself admits that only 10% of stops result in arrests, with only 5% leading to cautions or convictions.

A Home Office race equality impact assessment into identity cards reported that the chief concern of ethnic minorities was that the police would disproportionately demand to see their cards. “Education and training” of police officers – and other public- and private-sector employees – would be necessary. Yet, bizarrely, it concluded that the scheme would be “non-discriminatory” and promote good community relations, by improving citizens’ faith that immigration rules were not being flouted.

When Tony Blair came to power a decade ago there was a sense of optimism about how the fraught relationship between black communities and the police might be healed. Here was a government committed at last to holding a public inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the resulting report appeared to be a watershed.

It is heartbreaking, then, to see how little has changed as Blair resigns. Last year the Guardian revealed that the authorities currently hold the DNA profiles of nearly four in 10 black men in the UK – meaning that 40% of black husbands, sons and fathers have been tarnished as suspects for the rest of their lives. One wonders how long it will take for that proportion to reach 100%.

It is ironic that at the recent annual Police Federation of England and Wales Conference, David ‘Friend to all’ Cameron stated that he wants to get rid of the recording of stop and searches as they are presently conducted.The Service seems not to have listened to the lessons of history as yet and changes its somewhat biased ways! Perhaps this perceived desire to reduce bureaucracy is more about winning new friends rather than improving the quality of service that is given to the public?

No matter what it seems to happen, perhaps to some within the Police as well as wider society it is more important that the Police adopts the mantra of ‘Carry on Regardless’ rather than realise that times have changed and this calls for a new approach to tackling crime and developing social and community cohesion. Was the death of Stephen Lawrence, Ricki Reel and so many others in vain? Serendib



  1. Once apollytito and Goldiloppers set out in the deep dark of the forry. She was carry a basket with buttere-flabe and cheesy flavour.
    Once in a long far awow, in the Germanic land, there was a great city with Grubbelsberg or something like that, with an Obermeister-Bergelmasty who was in charge. Now there they had a surfeit or rat-suffery, where all they used to creep and out and gnaw sniff and gribble into the early mord (and the late evage) there, biting the bits of the table, also the tea-clothers; and when people were asleep in their beds, so these rats would gnaw into the sheebs and also the whiskers of those who was dangly hoPuffing and globbering they drugged theyselves rampling or dancing with wild abdomen, stubbing in wild postumes amongst themselves . . .
    When Jazz (how or what) came, is the dizziest of a fundamole. Not mark you of a Gillespeed fundamole, O no. There were no recorms vailabold ‘til 1917; these by white perslode, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Maybe otherwise jazz handy down by fardles’n mothers ‘til the first recorms in 1923 in a railside studio ramshackload by a black onsombly; Oliver’s, 1923, with his Creole Jazz Band, which inclubed Louis Armstrong who strode with first fine second trumpy-blow. There’s a start of a historical impaggers indeedy-ho!
    Goodly-day-go to thee andilode thine.

  2. Maybe these figures are a true reflection of who is suspected in a certain area.
    Avon & Somerset have a huge problem with drugs in certain parts of Bristol where the population are predominately black.
    The same could be said for stop searches because there is a massive influx of drugs from the caribbean mainly Jamaica. Surely this must have some impact on these figures, I do not know any officer who would single out anyone because of their colour or ethnic background alone, there must be grounds.

  3. OOoh, anonymous, he won’t like it if you say things like that………no, all white people are racist don’t you know, all black people are lovely, no gun crime, drugs, etc, all because of slavery.

  4. You are right to point out that within certain geographical areas crime is disproportionately committed by and against specific ethnic groupings, but the causes for this are not biological but due to many other factors which are not of a racialised but socio-economic nature.

    If we are to combat crime no matter where it is then perhaps the best starting point is to come from these factors rather than using the very tired and old Lombroso arguments which support a criminal nature perspective.

    Tackling the causes of crime was once the stance of the present government but it quickly chose the easiest and more popular publicity view of using heavy handed tactics which ultimately do not change the future but only remove an individual from the scene.

    There is no evidence to suggest that any particular ethnic group is more likely to be criminalised than any other, but there is a lot of evidence to show that specific communities may adopt a ‘preferred’ modus operandi when indulging in crime. Could this just be something as simple and crass as a warped form of localised ‘Fashion’?

  5. As an Avon & Somerset officer I take a certain amount of umbrage by any assumption that we are judging people by the colour of their skin.
    In fact I know some officers that shy from stopping cars driven by a black person because some choose to play the race card and make accusations.
    I am no expert but just maybe more crime is committed by black males in these areas than by white males.
    I am not deliberately referring to males but this is the norm in most cases.
    Can you imagine how infuriated you would be if you were accused of being racist or even if you were just part of a group accused of it.
    Very very frustrating when you are doing your best to bring offenders to justice!!

  6. Anonymous, you’re wasting your time – this blog’s authors aren’t interested in the truth of things despite their attempts at dressing up their responses with a touch of socio-babble and management speak. No one mentioned ‘biology’ other than the respondent who did so to skew and misrepresent the point originally made. Check out past posts and see the emotive language used, the references to ‘slavery’ and ‘colonialism’, that’s why there’s normally only two of them on here, the other occasional visitors tire quickly of their tedious racism.

  7. Anonymous from Avon and Somerset, you make valid points. I have just come into this article written by Serendib. I believe you when you say we don’t go out of our way to stop Black people just because they are black. And there is some validity in the geographical area argument.

    Our job is to prevent and detect crime, we should not shy away. There are rogue or bogus individuals that submit to comments here, and their point is to sabotage any debate. We have academic racists. Not you, Avon and Somerset Officer, but others who just have a go for the sake of it. Thank you for your honesty and come in from time to time. Certainly Serendib and I are not tokens! We have and will continue to help the service. And neither are we racists. As for people shying away from this blog, let’s see. I’ll add an article!

  8. Dear Avon & Somerset Anonymous,

    Regarding your statement “Can you imagine how infuriated you would be if you were accused of being racist or even if you were just part of a group accused of it” I have empathy with what you have said, for I was a member of the ‘Job’ for a quarter of a century from Scarman to very recently.

    Unfortunately the Service albeit full of ‘Good People’ is by its very nature somewhat right of centre in its interaction with diverse issues and people who are presumed or actually are different to the homogenous majority (if these people actually exist?).

    The reaction that you have received is not right and cannot be supported but perhaps it would be beneficial to understand from where the sentiments have originated and the perhaps as a Service this can improve.

    As I said numerous time before, ignorance and stupidity is not limited or the monopoly of any single ethnic or cultural group, there will always be people out there who will use any excuse to ‘go free’ so to speak, but as with Police Officers, most people are honest and upright and just wish to lead simple honest lives without any hassle.

    Regarding the ‘Other’ people who have joined this merry band, if you do not like what you see and read? Then please vote with your feet and leave, there is no need or reason to be abusive. Both Twining and I are only trying to enlighten others as to a different perspective. It is not dictum and written in stone, it is just the opinions of two people who have spent their working careers fighting intolerance within a Service that they actually care deeply about.


  9. I work in a force where there are few ethnic minorities both in the job and within the community.
    I had a dealing with one of our local criminals who is black on my last shift. He last that I knew was on tag and on curfew for robbery, assault and carrying weapons so I stopped him. He was very pleasant until I saw him later at the scene of a fight which he was involved in. He started spouting it was only because he was black and I was white that I was asking him to leave the area and why I had given him a sec5poa warning. Even though the other involved was an ethnic minority but was leaving the area under his own steam without shouting any abuse.
    All the black criminals in my area seam have this chip on their shoulder what they dont seem to realise is if they dont commit crime I wouldnt bat an eyelid if they walked past me. And they dont seem to realise that I treat them the same as the white criminals in my area – hard but just.

    All they see is white police officer picking on them for no reason other than the colour of their skin rather than their criminality.

    Yes there may have been racist officers in the past but I have never met one except the asian police officer who called me a racist, homophobic sexist within two minutes of meeting me whilst he was supposed to be teaching me and my class on a diversity input!!

  10. Big fella, I feel for you. A trainer should never call a delegate, in my opinion, racist or whatever. I think we all know where we stand on issues. This is personal, but a trainer should stop at some point. The term, institutional, is about how the organisation operates as a whole, it is not so much about individuals as such but the collusion afterwards. Chief Officer’s voted with their diddly brains when they committed to institutional racism. They had no idea what it was, but blamed the foot soldiers.

    Some Black people will play the token card we know. Indeed in the organisation some Black people do. Big fella, if your not racist, as I believe you are not, keep policing well. If you were racist you would not talk to me or Serendib. Our biggest issue is with those above who have conveniently blamed us all. As for stop and search it is not clear-cut at all at the moment. Respect to you big fella.

  11. Dear Big Fella in Blue

    ‘As I said numerous time before, ignorance and stupidity is not limited or the monopoly of any single ethnic or cultural group, there will always be people out there who will use any excuse to ‘go free’ so to speak, but as with Police Officers, most people are honest and upright and just wish to lead simple honest lives without any hassle’

    As for racist officer being something of the past, well I am sorry to have to widen your knowledge on this, but racism , sexism and homophobia are alive an dwell in the Police. The only difference is that today the language used is far more ‘slick’ and not so easily discernable to those who are not aware of their existence.

    As for the ‘Asian police officer [trainer] who called me a racist, homophobic sexist within two minutes of meeting me’, I am assuming in a training environment? Did he directly call you this or was it more along the lines that society is bigoted and by default unless we are further developed we will naturally fall in line with such bigotries as we have no reason to check them? There is a difference. It would be rather crass to call someone these things for no reason unless there was some training outcome?

    Perhaps you could elaborate on the context in which these comments were made?

    I am not so sure why people get to worried by being told that they have exhibited bigoted behaviour or expressed intolerant views for unless this is brought to our attention how are we to develop as human beings. It is only natural that if were are brought up and socialised in a ‘bigoted society’ then we too will hold such views. This does not make us ‘Bad people’ just ill informed and once such naivety has been established then we have a duty to develop.

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