The racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the report of Sir William Macpherson which followed it have been the most seismic events to hit the British police in the last 50 years—greater than the uncovering of networked corruption in the 1960s and likely to be more significant even than the apparently sorry tales emerging in front of the Leveson inquiry. And as always in British policing, Scotland Yard lies at its heart.
Macpherson’s report brutally laid bare the Met’s failures in the Lawrence investigation: failures of leadership, professional competence and community understanding. It was fortunate that a new generation of police leaders, commanded by Sir Paul Condon, had come to office by the time it was published. They were prepared not to reject these conclusions but to accept the bitterest of criticism and work for a police force that would build a different relationship with its minority populations.
A raft of changes followed, of which the most significant were the professionalisation of homicide investigations, the introduction of Independent Advisors to the Commissioner on matters of race and diversity, the development of Family Liaison Officers to assist bereaved families, the reinvigoration of Operation Trident to work alongside minority communities ravaged by drug-related criminality, and a new and successful approach to minority recruitment. And in the years that followed this work underpinned Scotland Yard’s approach to the difficulties facing Muslim communities in coming to terms with Islamist terror.