Met police are ‘arrogant and resistant to change’, Doreen Lawrence says

<span>Doreen Lawrence says recruitment and retention of black police police officers remains ‘a crucial issue’ today.</span><span>Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA</span>
Doreen Lawrence says recruitment and retention of black police police officers remains ‘a crucial issue’ today.Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Scotland Yard has been accused of arrogance and resistance to change by Doreen Lawrence, 25 years after the publication of the damning Macpherson report.

In an article for the Guardian, the social justice campaigner said it is “sickening to feel that the same issues are still happening today”, in reference to the insufficient progress since the report in February 1999 about the force’s flawed investigation into the murder of her son, Stephen Lawrence.

The report by Sir William Macpherson, a retired high court judge, concluded that the investigation into the fatal stabbing in 1993 in Eltham, south-east London, had been “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”.

A total of 70 recommendations were made to transform the police’s attitude towards race relations and improve accountability, which led to the introduction of detailed targets for the recruitment, retention and promotion of black and Asian officers, as well as the creation of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Lady Lawrence said the retention of black officers and barriers to their promotion up the ranks remains a pertinent issue today. She wrote: “I ask myself why the police are so resistant to change. My only conclusion is that they are arrogant, they believe only in themselves and don’t think they need to change.

“Occasionally I hear that a police officer has been suspended, but it’s not enough.

“So much more needs to be done. I’ve spoken to the commissioner and one of the things I told him is that only when the community can see and experience change, can they truly say they are making changes.

“Recruitment and retention of black officers within the police was one of the big areas that Macpherson highlighted for improvement. And it is a crucial issue today. In my experience, many senior officers are capable of understanding the issues involving policing of the black community. But the lower ranks don’t.”

The Labour peer said figures show that black officers are still more likely to be disciplined than their white counterparts and are less likely to be promoted.

Lawrence also called for “urgent reform” of the education system to help eradicate discrimination. “Twenty-five years after Macpherson suggested reforming our national curriculum, black Britons still don’t learn about their history in British society,” she said. “Unless this is changed, they will always grow up feeling that they are seen as second-class citizens.

“When the Windrush scandal happened, people needed to know that those from the Caribbean were asked to come here. That should have been part of our history lessons.”

Nicola Rollock, a professor of social policy and race at King’s College London, has also expressed concerns about “signs that we are now regressing in promoting racial justice”.

Writing in the Guardian, the author warned that a “lack of political leadership instead promises to fuel increased ignorance and division.”

“Macpherson and his advisers regarded the schools system as essential in eliminating racism from society,” she said. “Education has changed significantly since the recommendations were published in 1999. There is light there.

“But less so in our politics. Twenty-five years after the release of the Macpherson report – 30 years after Stephen’s murder – we remain in dire need of leaders who will recognise the struggles of racially minoritised groups, alongside the challenges faced by white working-class communities, and who will find bold ways to bring us together rather than divide us. That wait continues.”