The Anti-Imperialist | To self-police police racism is to perpetuate it

As further evidence emerges of police racism in the UK, Adam Elliott-Cooper uncovers a pattern of consistent failings by the Independent Police Complaint Commission to meaningfully hold the police to account.

New in Ceasefire, The Anti-Imperialist - Posted on Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:05 - 0 Comments

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Anti-racist campaigners have welcomed the fresh evidence surrounding police abuse and racism, collected by quick-thinking members of the public with recording equipment on their mobile phones, as well as official complaints or reports from officers victimised by a culture of racial discrimination.

To much of the press, an expression of shock and disappointment emerged with an apparent realisation that institutional racism had not been eradicated over the decade since the Macpherson Report. As is the procedure, a number of the cases has been referred to The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) , and the victims and their communities have been implicitly told to wait until the findings have been confirmed.

Community organisers and activists, however, have been less surprised by the evidence and accusations of racism, which include a young man being strangled, and then told that his problem was that he’ll “always be a nigger”. Those who are familiar with the blunt end of racist policing are more surprised that someone has managed to get away with recording the police while in their custody, as the police have put in a huge effort to criminalise anyone recording them while on duty.

Brian Paddick has been alone in the mainstream in his honesty about the endemic nature of racism in the police force, although he’s been careful to avoid the term ‘institutional racism’. Many are not planning to sit tight until the IPCC releases the findings due to emerge from the numerous reports of abuse. As far as they’re concerned, the organisation has proved over the years to be as problematic as the police body it is supposed to investigate and monitor.

Indeed, the proposal to hand evidence over to the IPCC is viewed with scepticism for good reason. There have been a number of cases in which the police have withheld vital evidence from the IPCC. The most high-profile of these being that of Ian Tomlinson, in which the IPCC were misled by false accounts, given to them by serving officers, of ‘missiles’ thrown by anarchists, not to mention an inaccurate autopsy carried out by a doctor with a history of lying in order to cover up police killings. Other cases have involved IPCC staff who, instead of critically examining evidence, have chosen to unquestioningly regurgitate police press statements, as was the case in the recent killing of Mark Duggan in the first week of Auguest 2011.

Further to this, in cases where sufficient evidence is presented to the IPCC, police accountability prosecution rarely ensues. Solicitor Fiona Murphy explains that investigations into officers with a long history of complaints of abuse against them from African, Caribbean and Asian members of the public over their abuse of Babar Ahmad resulted in the investigation – despite its abject failure to gather and test the necessary evidence – still unearthed sufficient material to justify criminal and disciplinary charges.

Nevertheless, both the Crown Prosecution Service and then, subsequently, the IPCC, somehow managed to conclude that there was insufficient evidence to justify charges. Again, this is not an isolated incident; similar evidence was ignored in the case of the murder of Troy Hurst in 2004, the forging of his signature by a police officer on a statement withdrawing a complaint of a serious assault, as well as alleged perjury by police that led magistrates to find evidence provded by officers to be not credible.

According to ex-IPCC member John Crawly commissioners have become ornamental, and the pressure has increased to delegate more and more to managers, including vital decisions on whether the IPCC should get involved in a complaint investigation. Even allegations of serious criminal assault are now routinely left to be investigated by the police, despite the damning fact that just 1% of such complaints have ever been upheld by them.

There are a number of reasons why the institutional failings of the police force are mirrored by the IPCC. Crucially, the majority of IPCC staff is itself made up of ex-police staff, ex-police officers and police officers on secondment. The second, and more important reason, is that it mirrors the same state-racism that created, finances and oversees the IPCC’s work.

Not only has the state created a watchdog institution that itself made-up of police officers, is grossly under-resourced, and apparently immune to public scrutiny, it has also drawn power away from those community groups attempting to impose some democratic accountability over the work of the police and, if needed, the IPCC. Both institutions are approaching these accusations of racism as an issue to be resolved through the weeding out a few misguided individuals, despite overwhelming evidence of the need for the radical solution that many have been calling out for, including Dr Richard Stone, one of the contributors to the Macpherson Report, who stated:

“Here we are 14 years later with the worst kind of blatant and violent racism by police. 
Even worse is that the officers appear to be doing it openly in front of colleagues from whom they have no fear of being reported… such a group of constables could not be routinely racist like this without their seniors being aware, and telling them to stop. I fear this may alas be more than ‘just a few bad apples’.”

Resisting state-racism using fundamentally flawed state-institutions is a solution few on the left recognise as constructive. Only community oversight over policing, and other arms of the state, can protect the public from abuse and hold the perpetrators of these hate crimes to account. Only through these efforts can racism be trully challenged and a liberatory education around discrimination begin. Reforms of this nature would not be pursued to preserve the current system of state violence, but to lay the groundwork for a complete upheaval of a system that perpetuates inequality, crime, repression and, inevitably, racism.

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