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In this essay I will consider whether institutional racism contributes to our understanding about the relationships between the police and minority ethnic groups. I will begin by giving a brief overview about the history leading to the current mistrust between EMs and the police. I shall be using evidence and theories relating to stop and search statistics in order to explore the idea that institutional racism is arguable able to explain the negative relationships between minority ethnic groups and the police, as “stop and search is one of the main procedures through which police services acquire their reputation for racism”, whilst also being the main procedure “through which ethnic minority community members’ perceptions of police racism are reinforced” (McGhee 2005:38). It is important to identify where the poor relationships between the police and minority ethnic groups stemmed from It can be traced to the 1960s and the radical writing of US black political activists (Phillips 2011), but one of most significant factors was the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The murder caused a wide array of social unrest, and led minority ethnic groups to believe they were being, treated unfairly by the police. This led to the MacPherson report, which concluded that the “fundamental flaws in the conduct of” Lawrence’s murder investigation “resulted from ‘professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers’ (MacPherson 1999: 137)” (Bowling et al 2008: 630). Prior to the MacPherson report Scarman’s (1981) report into the Brixton Riots dismissed institutional racism creating a ‘bad apple thesis’ to explain the police racism apparent at the riots (McGhee 2005). Scarman (1981 cited in Holdaway 1999) believe... ... middle of paper ... ...ave surrounding the topic. As with anything, it is hugely important to consider the data before making any assumptions, and once the data is considered it is clear that institutional racism is not the only explanation for these relationships. However as Bowling and Phillips (2001) explain, ethnic minority groups are still more exposed to stop and search, even when police proportionately select from the ‘available population’, and as Jefferson (1993: 39 cited in Waddington et al 2004) quite eloquently put it, “the question of the appropriateness of the treatment of any ethnic group …. never arises; the rates of criminalisation as such are not an issue, only comparative differences”. So, perhaps it is time to start focusing more on the appropriateness, as opposed to the proportionateness in order to try and rid some negative perceptions about the police and racism.
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