James O'Brien's stirring speech on stop and search, as report finds 'deep-rooted racism' in police

30 July 2021, 12:34 | Updated: 30 July 2021, 12:55

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien told listeners he takes all his opinions on police racism from people of colour, branding it ridiculous that "old white men" are paid to commentate.

It comes as a damning Home Affairs Committee report has found that successive governments and police have failed to stamp out the “deep-rooted” racial inequalities that still persist in policing over two decades on from Stephen Lawrence's murder.

The Government's new Beating Crime Plan also proposes new powers which will allow officers to stop and search with no grounds for suspicion.

James said to his listeners of colour: "Chances are I have been invited onto radio and television programmes to talk about whether or not you are victims of police racism more often than you have.

He pointed out that there are other "white old men", who have polar opposite views to him, and have just as little experience, are also paid to put forward their opinion.

"I draw all of my opinions on this subject from listening to people of colour," James said, "it took me the best part of a decade to realise how ridiculous is was to approach it in any other way."

Read more: 'Discouraged' black ex-PC stopped and searched by colleagues when off duty

"I mention the money because I think that's part of the problem: if someone's paying me for my opinions it doesn't really cross my mind that it might be absolutely ridiculous to ask me what they are. You might as well ask me my opinion on the Sino-Japanese war."

On whether stop and search is racist, James said, "How the hell do we know as white people? We just don't."

For white people who do feel they have a strong opinion that stop and search is not racist, he said, "it is possible you've found yourself on the side of a debate or a culture war...on the other side to the England football team, the National Trust and the RNLI."

If you have found yourself on the opposing side, James continued, "it's probably time to give your head a wobble."

"Who's the enemy today? We no longer get aerated about audiences that don't exist not singing songs at the last night of the Proms or a dance troupe on Britain's Got Talent dancing in a way that we consider to be provocative. We're picking on the important issues now: the National Trust, the RNLI and the most successful England football team since 1966.

"How dare you suggest that race has anything to do with any of these positions whatsoever?"

James said, "I do know that some people listening won't be ready to acknowledge that."