Murder, Macpherson & the Metropolitan Police
By Jon Gower Davies
Distributed by Coronet Books
$20.00 Paper original
The Macpherson Report into the handling of the murder of Stephen Lawrence became a defining moment in British political history. It accused the Metropolitan Police of 'institutional racism', an ambiguous phrase that has been regularly confused with overt racism. The concept was used not only to condemn the Metropolitan Police, but also to condemn all British police forces. For many commentators, it condemned Britain as a whole as a racist society. In Mind Forg'd Manacles, Jon Gower Davies argues that the charge of institutional racism was ill-founded and that reforms designed to address it have introduced negative and unintended consequences for British policing.
It has bogged down the police with unnecessary and counter-productive bureaucratic demands. It has paralysed the investigation of some crimes that involve ethnic minority suspects, frequently exposing vulnerable victims to greater harms. Davies presents an alternative, optimistic perspective on British society. Racism is, in fact, a rarity and its occasional appearance rightly condemned. The police are generally respected and trusted by British people of all ethnic origins. Imputing institutional racism to a whole society unfairly smears the majority of fair-minded people while removing moral responsibility from the minority of people who fail o measure up to British standards of equality. Davies concludes: 'Macpherson - not only obviated the need to make a realistic if less flamboyant analysis of the limitations of the policing of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, but also led an over-anxious police leadership to make a fool of itself by adopting policies which are neither operationally nor socially nor ethically sound and proper.'
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