In the Media

Cleveland police force 'institutionally racist' in way it treats staff, says report

PUBLISHED April 18, 2012

Cleveland's police force has been guilty of institutional racism in the way it applies internal policies and procedures to its own officers, according to a preliminary report into its operations.

The inquiry identified "a resonance" between how it treats its black and ethnic minority staff and the definition of institutional racism contained in the Macpherson report into racism in the Metropolitan police, which followed the Met's mishandled investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Acting Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer, who commissioned the inquiry after taking over at the force in the north-east of England last year, said the inquiry had found no evidence of racist practices in her officers' dealings with the public.

The initial findings come days after Sultan Alam, a former Cleveland traffic officer, was awarded £840,000 compensation by the force after being wrongfully jailed following a malicious prosecution brought by colleagues in 1996.

It is believed to be one of the largest claims against a police force in England and Wales.

Cheer appointed a team to carry out the investigation into racism in the force after concerns were raised.

She said: "An interim report has been produced and there is a resonance between the initial findings and the definition of institutional racism as set out in the Macpherson report.

"These findings relate largely to the application of internal policies and procedures, and are being looked into in more detail by the force, so that recommendations can be formed and implemented to fully address these issues.

"The review has not provided any evidence to suggest that the force or individuals within it are racist in their dealings with the public.

"The review is a positive move for the force and it is important to ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to fulfil their potential and be treated with respect and dignity."

She said the review was driven by the implementation of the Equality Act 2010, concerning laws against discrimination.

Cleveland police is committed to ensuring equality and human rights within the workplace, she added.

Alam, 49, lost his marriage, health, reputation and career as a result of the actions of several officers from the force.

He was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 months in 1996 for conspiracy to steal motor parts and served half of the sentence until his conviction was overturned by the court of appeal in 2007.

Earlier this year, Cleveland police admitted malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office during a hearing at Leeds county court. Three of his colleagues have since left the force, but one remains as a serving constable.

He was framed after he started to sue the force for racial discrimination following a series of incidents, culminating in a Ku Klux Klan poster being left on his desk.

Steve Matthews, chair of Cleveland's Police Federation, told the Northern Echo: "I welcome anything that checks and double checks that people are being treated fairly.

"I don't feel there is a problem with racism in the force. If I did I would be shouting it from the rooftops."

Alam said racism had gone "underground", with ethnic minorities being denied the same opportunities as their white colleagues.

There are 27 black or ethnic minority police officers, three civilian staff and three volunteer special constables in Cleveland police.

Once the report has been completed and a final report is available, it will be considered by the police authority.

The Macpherson report, published in February 1999, delivered a damning assessment of the institutional racism within the Met and policing generally.