By Tim Dickens, co-editor
London’s top police officer told Brixton residents last night that he “can’t be sure” the Metropolitan Police is not racist.
Speaking at Lambeth College, Clapham Common Southside, last night Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe responded to questions from residents and community leaders including Brixton Splash chairman Lee Jasper.
He was there to set out his view of “total policing” before answering a series of questions from the audience.
Jasper, a former equalities advisor to the Mayor of London, accused the Met of a “resurgent and rampant” level of institutionalised racism. He asked Hogan-Howe: “Do you accept that your relationship with black communities is in deep crisis? Because I can tell you that is the case.”
Hogan-Howe replied: “I can only say that I hope we’re not, but I can’t be sure we’re not institutionally racist.”
The police boss faced a barrage of questions about racism in the police, with a number of references made to the mobile phone recording which emerged of a police officer allegedly racially abusing a suspect in the back of a police van in Newham during the August riots.
In response to another question about cameras in police vehicles, Hogan-Howe said: “We will do that. There’s a lot of work to do before it will happen, but it will happen. I can’t give you a date today.”
On the subject of stop and search the commissioner said: “We’ve got too many kids being stopped without having done anything. I am not sure we have given [police officers] enough training for what can be a complicated event. We will probably see fewer stops.”
Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean Rigg died in custody at Brixton Police station in August 2008, was also at the meeting. She was unhappy that the commissioner had failed to keep a promise to meet with her following alleged police brutality at a march in central London by the United Families and Friends Campaign in October last year.
Hogan-Howe responded that he would meet with Rigg and her colleagues, but had to wait until the complaint procedure had been closed.
Brixton Splash founder Ros Griffiths and former policewoman and equalities activist Marlene Ellis also asked questions of Hogan Howe around the subject of race and the police’s relationship with black and ethnic minorities.
A number of others who wanted to speak were left disappointed, however, when the chairman brought the meeting to a close at 8.30pm last night.