|The development of police racial awareness training, 1981-1993|
|The disorders of 1981 and 1985 saw the police service come into direct, violent confrontation with certain members of the ethnic population; the culmination of a progressively strained relationship over the previous three decades, between the service and portions of the immigrant communities within various cities across the United Kingdom. The idea that the service was ‘institutionally racist’ was broached by Lord Scarman in his report into the Brixton disorders of 1981, but he concluded that barring the actions of a few officers, the integrity of the service remained intact concerning its operational practices and relationship with ethnic minority communities. Despite this statement, this and other incidents caused a major reassessment of police training programmes dealing with the way patrolling officers, and the force as a whole, acted and interacted with members of the community. Specific training initiatives were formulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Police Training Unit, with Home Office approval, to improve and educate the awareness that officers had towards the cultural differences that could be exhibited by members of these communities and thus show a proper respect towards them in their day to day interactions with them.
This paper aims to use material from the archive of ACPO, to complement information, such as published official documents and media representations, to discuss the nature and mechanisms of this training, the perceived successes and failures of these various initiatives. It will gauge their effectiveness in redressing and repairing the strained relationship between the service and the ethnic minorities. As a cut off point, this paper shall use the publication of the McPherson report and its criticism of the failings by the Metropolitan Police Service in its investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, showing how the racial awareness training initiatives did not work as intended.