Neil Basu urges police chiefs to admit institutional racism to ‘win back trust’
BRITAIN’s most senior minority ethnic police officer has urged police chiefs to admit institutional racism to “win back trust”, according to a report.
Neil Basu, an assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan police and former head of counter-terrorism, added that “positive discrimination” should be introduced to boost numbers of minority ethnic officers in the ranks, The Guardian reported.
The Black Lives Matter protests in the UK following the murder of George Floyd by police in the US led to police chiefs launching a race plan this week. It is billed as a landmark attempt to reset strained relationships and reverse dwindling confidence.
According to the report, police chiefs admitted shame over continued racial bias, but not to institutional racism – a finding made in 1999 by the Macpherson report into police errors that left the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence free.
“The plan’s achilles heel is the inability to galvanise all chief constables to accept that we remain institutionally racist and to apologise for that and our post-Windrush history. If we can’t accept we need to change and say sorry to people we have wronged, how can we expect them to trust us?”,” Basu wrote in an article in the newspaper.
Basu had previously argued in 2019 that policing was not institutionally racist, but changed his mind in the aftermath of the Floyd murder.
Basu said: “We are guilty as charged and the evidence can be found in the voices of our staff and communities of difference, and in the still unexplained and disproportionate data that calls out some of our poor policy and practice.”
He takes his share of the blame, with black confidence in policing below that of white people, and despite repeated claims by police leaders to have reformed in the 23 years since the Macpherson report.
“This is an indictment of our senior leadership post-Macpherson report, not the vast majority of our frontline staff, who don’t deserve this stigma created by a minority in their ranks and the failure of their leadership to promote diversity. I am as guilty as any. We may be better than we were, but we are complacent. Society has moved faster and further than we have,” Basu further wrote.
He cited research showing policing will take six decades to have the same proportion of minority ethnic officers in its ranks as in the population.
Basu is reported to have irked the home secretary, Priti Patel, by calling for positive discrimination in a private meeting. It was a longstanding policy of police chiefs and was supported by Bernard Hogan-Howe when he was Met commissioner.
Basu and Hogan-Howe both recently applied to be the director general of the National Crime Agency, seen as the second-biggest job in policing. Basu reached the final two, Hogan-Howe did not. But after an intervention from Downing Street, the process has been scrapped, and it will be restarted in an attempt to help Hogan-Howe get the job, The Guardian report said.
Reports said that confidence in policing among women has dropped after revelations about misogyny and the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer.
“We can and must reconnect with the public, as Robert Peel wanted when he first said that the public were the police and the police were the public. In 1829 it was an idea ahead of its time. In 2022 it is an ideal we have yet to realise in full,” Basu said.