'Investigate Met Police for institutional racism,' says Lib Dem mayor candidate

9 June 2020, 12:13

The Lib Dem mayoral candidate is calling for a review into racism in the Met
The Lib Dem mayoral candidate is calling for a review into racism in the Met. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Metropolitan Police should be investigated to see whether it is still institutionally racist, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London Siobhan Benita has said.

In response to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's recent decision to review the Met's use of stop and search and other practices, Ms Sebita argued the probe will not go far enough.

The Lib Dem candidate called the Labour mayor's plans "reactive and disingenuous" while also voicing her opposition to facial recognition technology and the increased the use of stop and search.

She said both tactics "unfairly target black Londoners" and criticised Mr Khan for "refusing to acknowledge the Met Police may still be institutionally racist."

"Any review that does not investigate whether or not the force still deserves this label will be inadequate," she added.

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"In the past four years, we have seen the biggest breakdown in trust between police and communities in London in a generation.

"Even during the coronavirus pandemic, we've seen a disproportionate targeting of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities for lockdown fines.

"If we're to take systemic racism in Britain seriously, we must be prepared to ask the question: is the Met Police still institutionally racist?"

In 1999, the Macpherson Report concluded that the Met Police was "institutionally racist" following an inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence six years earlier.

However, recent UK protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have seen anger expressed towards police forces across the country for disproportionately targeting people from BAME communities.

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Responding to the Mayor of London's review into landmarks and statues across the capital, announced on Tuesday, Ms Benita said she will be "watching closely" to make sure it is followed up and not just "another PR opportunity" for Mr Khan.

She added: "Being a good ally goes beyond speaking up during moments of protest and public outcry. I called for a deep-dive review into London's structural inequality back in February. Where was the Mayor's acknowledgement of this issue then?

"His announcement to review statues and the public realm is clearly in direct response to what happened in Bristol.

"We need a much bigger and wide-ranging review, looking into City Hall and how all of its responsibilities contributes to systemic racism in the capital.

"I will be watching closely to ensure that these announcements are not just another PR opportunity for the Mayor."

Mayor Sadiq Khan's office said London is "one of the most diverse cities in the world", but recent anti-racism demonstrations have highlighted that the city's statues, plaques and street names largely reflect Victorian Britain.

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Statues, murals, street art and street names will all be reviewed by the new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, who will also consider what should be celebrated before making recommendations.

But London Assembly Tories have hit out at the Mayor's plans, accusing him of declaring war on the capital's monuments.

Assembly Member Susan Hall said: "Sadiq Khan has declared war on the capital's monuments.

"Instead of virtue signalling and starting a divisive debate, he should focus on his job.

"He can start by fixing the mess he made of TfL's finances and getting our city moving safely again."

The Mayor of London said: "It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored.

"This cannot continue."

People take to streets of London for Black Lives Matter protests

In February, the Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey pledged to increase the strength of the London constabulary to a record 40,000 officers if he is elected.

He said he would make tackling violent crime his “number-one priority” and claimed he would be better than Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan at securing government funds.

Green Part candidate Siân Berry questioned the Commissioner of the Met Police last week after new data showed that black Londoners are much more likely to be arrested or given a fixed penalty notice under emergency police powers issued during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It is not a coincidence that yet again we are seeing harsh police tactics being used more often against the black community," she said.

"The reasons behind this must be taken seriously... this issue cannot be swept under the carpet."

Ms Berry has also previously spoken out against the use of facial recognition technology on London's streets.