Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

United Kingdom

Warning racism in police has been ‘taken out of canteens and put on WhatsApp’


Racism among police has been “taken out of canteens and put on WhatsApp”, a leading officer has warned after “vile” messages exchanged by officers were exposed in court.

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, said racism had not gone away in the past 20 years but had simply been pushed underground.

Speaking to The Independent, he asked: “How many times can we say it’s a few bad apples, we’ve dealt with them, things are great? There’s a wholesale systemic issue with culture.”

Fresh concerns have been sparked by evidence heard in the trial of three current and former Metropolitan Police officers, over jokes about rape, domestic violence, Muslims and racial minorities in a WhatsApp group containing Wayne Couzens.

It follows a watchdog report that exposed racism and misogyny at Charing Cross police station and the sacking of another officer who was found to have used a racial slur in messages to a colleague who photographed the bodies of two murdered Black women.

The latest case resulted from Couzens’s phone being seized following the murder of Sarah Everard.

Messages were discovered showing officers calling ethnically diverse areas of London “s***holes” and “filthy”, with one saying he “felt like a spot on a domino”. Other messages appeared to joke about the prospect of leaving Muslims to die in a terrorist bombing.

The officers, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, denied racism and said the messages were only “humorous banter”, with one defendant calling the prosecution ridiculous. The case has been adjourned until September.

Mr George told The Independent: “That attitude just shows that in the last 20-plus years all we’ve done with racism is pushed it underground.

“We’ve taken it out of canteens, out of mainstream documents and put it on WhatsApp groups and anonymous police social media accounts.

“We’ve made it something that you can’t say in the open any more, but that people still obviously think and feel is acceptable – that’s the worrying bit.”

Mr George said that the evolution of policing over the past two decades, which has seen police sign up to new ethics codes and undergo equality and diversity training, had “ suppressed racism to a certain degree”.

PC William Neville, PC Jonathon Cobban and former police officer Joel Borders deny committing ‘gross offence’


But he warned: “How widespread those WhatsApp groups seem to be and what is said on them shows that we have a culture that normalises racism, misogyny and other discriminatory behaviours.”

The current case was sparked when investigators seized Couzens’s phone following the murder of Ms Everard, and the court heard that no other officers had raised concerns about the WhatsApp group.

Mr George called for forces to be more proactive in taking action, warning that some “see discrimination, racism and misogyny as a PR issue they have to contain”.

“Silence is permission and there’s a silent majority that allows things to happen,” he warned. “They know it’s wrong but are afraid to come forward and say anything. That’s the culture that needs to be done away with – if we challenge these behaviours at their lowest level, at the first opportunity, then people will understand they can’t get away with it.”

The charity, Justice, said there had been an unacceptable amount of progress since the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, which triggered a report accusing Scotland Yard of institutional racism.

Legal director Stephanie Needleman said: “These messages speak to a horrific culture in the Metropolitan Police. The new Metropolitan commissioner must urgently get a grip on this issue, and ensure that racism and discrimination among the force is urgently rooted out. London’s communities impacted by discriminatory policing practices deserve better.”

The Stand Up to Racism organisation said the number of cases involving racism showed that such messages were “not isolated incidents” and called for “root and branch change”.

Tell Mama, which records Islamophobic incidents, described the posts concerning Muslims and mosques as alarming.

Director Iman Atta added: “Public reassurance needs to be sent out to diverse communities, including British Muslim communities, that such behaviour is not acceptable and will be clamped down with all available resources within the police.”

Court rejects Sarah Everard killer’s appeal against whole-life prison sentence

Messages revealed during the recent court case include purported jokes about rape, violence against women and domestic abuse victims.

Reclaim These Streets, which was founded after the murder of Ms Everard and won a court case over Scotland Yard’s unlawful handling of a planned vigil, said it was disgusted.

Co-founder Anna Birley said: “Violence against women isn’t a joke, and it’s certainly not funny that these attitudes and beliefs are held by god-knows how many of the very men tasked with keeping London’s women safe.

“You can’t be a ‘really good’ police officer, as one defendant described another, if you hold these views – the only thing wrong about them losing their jobs over these messages is that they were ever deemed fit to hold those jobs in the first place.”

Ms Birley said the incoming Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, must address not “a few bad apples but an entirely rotten barrel”.

Fellow Reclaim These Streets co-founder Jamie Klingler said: “Messages like these are why we have been begging for a statutory review of misogyny within the police.

“They are in power and punching down against the most vulnerable in society, and it is despicable.”

Issues with culture in the Metropolitan Police are being investigated by an independent inquiry commissioned by former Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick and a separate public inquiry that will also consider vetting and wider issues.

Separately, the National Police Chiefs’ Council is consulting on a police race action plan, which aims to address racial disparities and public confidence.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like