Bernard Hogan-Howe says the force should take racism claims ‘on the chin’. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Britain’s most senior police officer has said there is some justification to allegations that the Metropolitan police is institutionally racist, despite efforts to improve relations with ethnic minority communities following the Stephen Lawrence scandal.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, said his force had to take such accusations “on the chin”.
During an interview to be aired in the first episode of a BBC documentary series on Scotland Yard, Hogan-Howe said: “If other people think we are institutionally racist, then we are. It’s no good me saying we’re not and saying you must believe me. [That would be] a nonsense, if they believe that.”
Scotland Yard has been dogged for years by claims of institutional racism, triggered by the damning 1999 Macpherson report into the Lawrence killing and the police response.
Since assuming control of the Met in September 2011, Hogan-Howe has pledged repeatedly to reform the force and restore public trust in officers. Yet Scotland Yard has been dragged into several damaging rows over race, including the shooting of Mark Duggan that led to the 2011 London riots.
In an interview for The Met: Policing London, Hogan-Howe conceded that young black men in London were “very much more likely” to be stopped and searched than young white men. He added: “I can’t explain that fully. I can give you reasons, but I can’t fully explain it. So there is some justification.”
Hogan-Howe suggested that society as a whole was institutionally racist and that it was not a problem confined to the police: “I don’t think people often understand what the term means. It’s a label, but in some sense there is a truth there for some people and we’ve got to accept that.
“I think society is institutionally racist. You see lack of representation in many fields – of which the police are one – from judges to doctors, to journalists, to editors, to governments.”
His comments come little more than a year after he was urged by the leader of Scotland Yard’s black officers’ association to “take ownership” and admit that the force was institutionally racist.
Janet Hills said she believed the Met was still institutionally racist. She said this was shown by issues such as higher rates of stop and search of black people, and “the representation of ethnic minorities within the organisation, where ethnic minorities are still stuck in the junior ranks”.
The first of the five-part series will be shown on BBC1 at 9pm on Monday (08 06 15).