No UK police force is institutionally racist says Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police

19 April 2023, 10:32

No UK force is racist, Mr Watson said.
No UK force is racist, Mr Watson said. Picture: LBC/PA/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

No UK police force is institutionally racist, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has said.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking during a call-in on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Chief Constable Stephen Watson said the problem with the phrase was that "it is also being applied by different people in different contexts across the board".

He said it was at risk of becoming "a fluid descriptor" as there was a lack of the "same discipline of interpretation".

"I think it is a little unclear as to what [institutional racism] means but I do think there is a grave danger of almost reaching for a rigid interpretation of a well thought out definition," he said.

"The public will understandably take the view that if you say we’re institutionally this, that or the other, then that means as an organisation we either genuinely don’t care, we genuinely don’t find that behaviours of the sort described are somehow inimicable to our values or at best we’re just too incompetent to sort it out."

Mr Watson continued: "I think it possible that a police force could be institutionally racist but I just don't think that applies to any of the UK police forces."

He went on to say: "I think the phrase has become politicised in certain circles.

"I do think it difficult - it's certainly not a term that I would accept in respect of Greater Manchester Police because my sense of course is that institutionally we're against these behaviours, institutionally our values are designed to eradicate these behaviours and institutionally, if somebody is found guilty or behaving in these ways, we root them out and boot them out and we do that really ruthlessly."

Read more: 'You’ll be leaving your fingerprints on the road': Top cop warns protesters who glue themselves to motorways

GMP Chief Constable: ‘Institutionally racist doesn’t apply to any UK forces.’

When asked about his time as a firearms and public order commander in the Met, Mr Watson said he "didn't think they were racist at that time".

"I think there was a great deal of improvement since the publication of the Macpherson report," he added.

Mr Watson also argued that using "institutionally racist" widely was "not helpful".

"People do not differentiate between the nuanced, balanced interpretation that was set forth in Macpherson and the otherwise assertion that people will very often put to our people at 3 o'clock in the morning - 'you're institutionally xyz, your boss says you are these things, therefore you are these things'.

"I think it's universally recognised – we have people in our ranks who ought not to be there who conduct themselves in a racist, homophobic- on and on goes the list.

"I just think we draw the distinction between those who let the side down and the mass."

The Macpherson report followed an inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, who was killed by a group of white youths in 1993.

It concluded that the investigation into the killing was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership”.

A total of 70 recommendations were provided in a bid to show “zero tolerance” for racism in society - 67 of which led to specific changes in practice or the law within two years of its publication.