The murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 by a group of white youths heralded a period of inquiries and calls for police reforms. The MacPherson report on the killing provided the findings of the inquiry and presented several recommendations. According to the report, investigations into the murder were characterized by professional incompetence, poor leadership, and institutional racism. The 70 recommendations presented in the report were aimed at creating a police culture of zero tolerance for racism by changing police attitudes towards the issue of race and enhancing accountability.
The inquiry was a critical mechanism for change in the police service because the implementation of the recommendations brought massive changes in several areas. These include police responses to hate crimes, the monitoring of racist incidents, management of murder investigations, communication with minority groups, consultation with local communities, and the use of racist language in the police service. More police officers belonging to minority groups were hired and promoted, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission was established to promote accountability.
The police service worked toward eliminating racist language among its staff, and it is no longer tolerated in any force site. This was prompted by an increase in scrutiny and potential disciplinary action. Structures for enhancing consultations with local communities improved immensely. This was achieved through the establishment of Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs) for key operations and campaigns. The police service became more aware of the need for liaising with communities, especially regarding matters that have an impact on their welfare. For example, they created liaison posts within minority communities. All police forces implemented Community Race Relations (CRR) training in order to increase their staff’s awareness of cultural diversity and the needs of minority groups.
Significant improvements have been made with regard to the protocols for conducting murder investigations and dealing with the families of the victims. For instance, new standards and procedures for the management of murder scenes were implemented, and all police officers are required to document investigative decisions and their justification. Improvements in the monitoring and recording of hate crimes have been made. Officers’ understanding of the meaning and nature of racism improved massively as they adopted the description provided by the Lawrence Inquiry. The police service also introduced Community Safety Units that deal with issues such as hate crime and antisocial behavior. Before the inquiry, the police culture allowed officers to break “stop and search” rules. However, they changed and began following the law due to increased scrutiny.