THE BLOG

Stephen Lawrence Case: Don't Blame the Entire Met Police

13/03/2014 10:43 GMT | Updated 12/05/2014 10:59 BST

A number of Metropolitan police officers failed the family of Stephen Lawrence by not investigating his murder properly. Worse still - officers may have spied on the family with a view to discrediting them, and even worse than that - corruption may have played a part in undermining the investigation.

All of this is the complete opposite to what the police should do for a family of a murder victim and it should be investigated and if officers were guilty of crimes they should pay for that and if the police spied on the victim's family they should be held to account.

Understandably the level of debate about this case has increased with the most recent allegations around spying and corruption - but a theme of that debate seems to be the entire Metropolitan Police were to blame for the actions of a few.

I was in the Metropolitan Police at the time of the murder and the investigation and, just like nearly 30,000 other Metropolitan police officers I had nothing to do with the case or the failures of the investigation or with any spying or corruption that may well have taken place.

There are currently 128,000 police nationwide and almost all of them had nothing to do with the Lawrence case, Hillsborough or 'plebgate' - three issues that have damaged the reputation of the police.

I know this is the 'few bad apples' argument and people are less sympathetic to that - but it is still wrong to blame a majority of the actions of a tiny minority.

The Government and the rest of society will want some simple solution to it all - some re-shaping of the command structures or some other measure which is likely to be ineffective because it does not address the main issue.

For me the main issue is that the police broadly reflect the society they are recruited from. There are some dishonest officers, there are some out and out racists and there are some that are bad at their jobs - because that is true of the rest of society. Equally most officers try to do a good job - just like the rest of society.

This is not to say these behaviors should not be challenged - of course they should - and in many cases they are - but like the wider society most officers try to do a good job.

People seem to prefer the theory that the behavior emanates solely from within the police - the infamous 'canteen culture' because that is easier to accept than the police reflecting society they come from.

I was in the Met Police for 23 years from the 1983 to 2006 and served in various Police Stations in West London and towards the end of my service in Central London. There was not a widespread 'canteen culture' of racism and intolerance and corruption - not in the canteens I sat in. In some other stations in other parts of London there may have been bad cultures - but there was not a London wide police 'culture' that would account for the actions of these few.

Officers are swayed by their own prejudices (I am sure I was) - just like every other walk of life and this needs challenging. The unspoken prejudice that does discriminate against some minority groups exists in wider society - in education - in employment - in the wider criminal justice system. It needs addressing - but it is not unique to police.

The police do need to be held to a higher standard than the rest of society because they have enormous power over other people. It is right that there are agencies in place to investigate the police and corruption is being challenged - between 2009 and 2011 almost 50 officers were suspended for corruption. No doubt more needs to be done.

But while people will be rightly shocked and dismayed by these things and they will lose some confidence in the police - they should - again - also keep in mind that there are over 128,000 police officers in the UK overall and we should be slow to decide that all or a majority are guilty of the sins of a few. Most officers do a decent job.

The imposition of Crime Commissioners (largely silent individuals in these debates it seems) will not solve this problem - a simplistic restructuring of the police will not solve this problem. Police will still be coming from a less than perfect society.

More recruiting from groups not well represented within the police will help - more honesty and transparency from within the police service will help. Better policing of the police, with better resources will help. What won't help is simplistic solutions that will satisfy no-one in the long term.