London police can do more to tackle racism in their ranks – but rapid progress has been made, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London says.
Shaun Bailey said the Metropolitan Police have “worked hard” to shake claims the force was institutionally racist, but could do more to speed up change.
It comes after thousands of Londoners took to the streets last month to protest over the death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators said British police also disproportionately target the black community.
New data last month showed black Londoners are twice as likely as white peers to be fined for breaching lockdown – underlining protestors’ claims.
But Mr Bailey said it was wrong to “automatically accuse the police of being racist”.
“I think we need to ask some slightly deeper questions of the data,” he explained.
“If the police have been behaving in a racist way then let’s pursue them on that – but let’s make sure that’s what happened and it wasn’t something else.”
The Conservative Mayoral hopeful said London police have “done a good job” during lockdown, and been “more consistent” than other forces when applying new rules.
“Nine times out of ten maybe even ten times out of ten the police have handled it correctly and raised the public confidence,” he said.
Earlier this month Met chief Cressida Dick said her force is no longer “institutionally racist” – a claim in the Macpherson report, produced after the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
“The Met have worked hard to remove this label and change their culture,” Mr Bailey said.
“You have people in the police force who have been there 30 or 35 years: it takes time to do this and I think they’re going at quite a rate.
“But you could always ask them to do more and I certainly would.”
The Conservative candidate said black, Asian and minority ethnic officers should be mentored by senior police to boost retention.
And following recent reports that black officers had been abused by both sides in recent demonstrations in London, he said any attacks on black police are “very damaging and very worrying”.
“If those black officers cannot go back to their respective communities, black and white, and say they had a good experience people won’t take the chance,” he explained. “Why would they?”