ITV poll finds 77% of black people think police has ‘a culture of racism’

Credit: ITV/PA

An ITV poll has found 77% of black people believe the police has a "culture of racism".

The survey was carried out to mark three decades since the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Lawrence was a black British teenager who was killed by a group of white youths in a racially motivated attack in 1993.His death and the subsequent campaign for justice led by his family, prompted a public inquiry into the Metropolitan Police - the Macpherson report - which found the force was institutionally racist.

Now, 27 years on from his death, an ITV poll reveals the majority of black respondents believe the police is still institutionally racist.

The poll also found 59% of ethnic minority people and 42% of white people believe the police has a "culture of racism."

Reacting to the survey, Assistant Constable for the Metropolitan Police, Helen Ball, told ITV: "Those are devastating findings, they really hurt me and they will hurt many of my colleagues, who are joining policing to make a difference to people."

She added: "It's not something that I experience, it's not my experience in the Metropolitan Police in 2020 but I respect those findings."

"One thing I think we have to say is that has changed significantly is the number of black and Asian ethnic minority people in policing.

"So in 1999, when the MacPherson report came out 1 in 30 police officers was from a BAME background, now 1 in 7 - that's such a significant change."

But writer and activist Chanté Joseph responded by saying having more police officers of colour "doesn't change anything."

"I think policing as an entire institution is rotten to the core, it's not an issue of bad apples,

the whole tree is rotten, our whole justice system is rotten, the way that we would prosecute a white people and black people for the same crime but a black person will get a longer sentence, the whole institution itself is wrong," she added.

What else did the poll show?

Companies, football and the education sector were also believed to have a "culture of racism" by black, Asian and ethnic minority people.

But the figures were much lower for the NHS.

When asked if things have got better in the 27 years since Stephen Lawrence's death, his brother, Stuart Lawrence told ITV News' International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar: "They have and they haven't, I think there is still a lot more work to be done".

He added: "We've still got a lot of work to do and it's out lived experience that we have to talk about more."

"The more that we speak about it the more people will understand the struggles we have gone through over the past 27 years."

Historian David Olusoga, who endured racism in the 70s and 80s, said: "Some things have got better, the fact that we're having this debate, the fact that we're taking this seriously, the fact that we have the black lives matter has exploded all over the world is a sign of process."

However, he added: "But at the end of this programme, everyone not white on this panel if they go onto social media will see a wave of racism, and we all know that those of us taking part in it."

Reaction to the ITV poll and whether times have changed

Responding to the ITV poll Conservative Member of the London Assembly, Shaun Bailey, said: "I'm not surprised by the poll but I think things have got better, but what it is, is that they are changing, they have not changed, they are changing."

He added: "There's work to be done, there's a higher expectation about what racism means, when I was younger people would call you all manner of things to your face and that was perceived as okay, now it isn't."

Stuart Lawrence said: "I've had a varied experience with the police about times I've been stopped and searched myself and my family's experience with the police.

"If you can't see it then you don't believe you can become it."

"So I became a school teacher, in my schooling I don't remember seeing a headteacher or another person who was black...we really need to make sure these representations are shown."

When asked by Rageh Omaar if things have got better, footballer John Barnes said: "It depends on what your perception of racism is because overt racism, remember in the good old football days, racist slogans were dubbed on walls, that has got better."

"But the unconscious bias is still there, and that is why black people feel like nothing has changed because a woman walking down the road and a black youth walks towards her, she crosses the road. You can't prove that is racism, but of course it is because she's racially biased."

John Humphrys, who covered the Macpherson report when it was released in 1999 and many others, said people's attitude to racism has changed for the better.

Mr Humphrys said: "The short answer to that question is yes, fundamentally there has been an improvement, and that is because of young people. They, in my experience, overwhelmingly, and you'll say this is too big of a statement, are not racist and by young people I mean teenager and younger.

Unconscious bias

Within the panel, Mr Humphrys and Mr Barnes discussed the notion of unconscious bias, with Mr Humphrys questioning whether the concept even existed.

John Barnes and John Humphrys discussed the notion of conscious bias on the ITV show. Credit: ITV

Mr Humphrys said: "The notion of unconscious bias, I'm puzzled by it, everyone is biased in one sense or another about a whole raft of things, it's called being human, you have views that are being built into you from being on this planet...what exactly is unconscious bias?"

The former England footballer responded saying, "I'm thinking of Winston Churchill and thinking yes, he was a great man but also he was racially biased and because we believe that Winston Churchill is such a great man we believe that being British is being better than everyone else, from colonial days to imperial days, this is what we unconsciously believe."

Mr Barnes added: "I'm not talking about me because I'm black, I'm talking about a lot of white British people get this sense of entitlement and superiority because of what history has told them about and that is what unconscious bias is without even thinking about it."

On Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech John Humphrys: "Nobody, no politician, no respectable, no responsible politician, in this country could ever make a speech like that again."

But in response to Mr Humphry's comment, Mr Lawrence said: "We have a current prime minister who has said some really extreme things, he used the word 'spectacle' when he spoke about George Floyd, and for me that means we haven't moved forward enough."

"It means we're not represented enough, that top table at cabinet, there's no one who looks like me there, so therefore how am I going to feel like things have changed if I look there, there is no representation of myself?"

"And it's those sorts of things, to make sure happens, so when you're speaking to the young generation, because as far as I'm concerned, it is about them, it is about our children, it is about my son, never having to come on a programme like this, [speaking about] what his grandma had to do, how losing his uncle, what his dad had to do, it's not about that.""This fight here ends with me, with the adults around this room and how we can make sure that change really happens, we have got to stop the lip service, we have got to put things into action and we have to start changing policies and laws."