After Nazi bombings

Should the police get more powers?

POLICE ATTACK anti-Nazi protesters in Welling in 1993

LABOUR MP Ken Livingstone called on the police to be given stronger powers to deal with the Nazis at a public meeting in Brixton last week. Livingstone even called for internment at the meeting, called in protest at the recent Nazi bombings. There is no doubt that "the racist nail bombers must be hunted down and bought to justice", as another speaker put it.

People rightly expect the police to protect our inner city communities. But there is also a wide distrust of the police after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. And those who hesitate at the idea of giving police wider powers are right. The police have more than enough powers to catch Nazi thugs, but they don't use them. In 1994, when Nazi terror in London's East End was at its height, only ONE case of incitement to racial hatred was referred to the attorney general for prosecution.

The BNP's Derek Beackon, Nazi councillor for the Isle of Dogs from September 1993 to May 1994, said publicly, "The Asians are rubbish and that is what we are going to clear from the streets." He was never prosecuted. As the Commission for Racial Equality says, "It has not been any deficiencies in the criminal law or any lack of powers which have inhibited the police from prosecuting perpetrators of racially motivated crime. The statutory and common law offences currently available are adequate to deal with most racially motivated crime."

There are not two police forces-one that helps black people and another that hates them. The police force has always persecuted black people and defended racists. Even now they are on the attack. The Daily Telegraph ran a front page story last week under the headline, "Muggings Soar As Police Tread Softly". It came from the Police Federation and asserted that the Lawrence inquiry meant that police were "disengaging" from stopping black "suspects". It produced figures claiming that stop and search had fallen following publication of the Lawrence report. It said this had led to an increase in "muggings" in London.

It was nonsense. Firstly, the "evidence" was built around just two months' figures-not enough to detect a trend. Secondly, it assumed that black people are "muggers". Finally, it linked stop and searches and solving "street crime". This contradicts evidence by police at the Lawrence inquiry who said stop and search was "not a very good tactic" to prevent crime. The Telegraph story was an attempt to brand black people as criminals rather than victims of police racism.

Last week the Metropolitan Police press bureau admitted it had "misrepresented" Roger Sylvester after his death in custody. The bureau had said that a 999 caller said that black north Londoner Roger was behaving in an "aggressive" manner. This was simply not true. But it was used as "fact" to imply that Roger was dangerous and somehow deserving of death.

The police station in Brick Lane, which was closed when the recent bomb went off, was opposed by locals when first built. The police opened it up in the late 1970s to intimidate people who pointed out that the police were protecting the Nazi skinheads terrorising Brick Lane. The police and the courts also colluded in punishing people fighting back. In 1977 the Virk brothers were jailed for a total of 12 years and three months after defending themselves from drunken racists.

Judges-mostly white, male and drawn from the upper classes-are notoriously biased against black people and soft on racists. Last week a scandal erupted after Old Bailey judge Graham Boal cracked a disgusting joke at the annual dinner of the Criminal Bar Association. Boal's "joke" referred to a white, heterosexual barrister who wakes up after an operation and learns he has "the breasts of a lesbian, the backside of a homosexual and a large black penis".

Whenever the police and courts have been given extra powers they have used them against the people they are supposed to protect. The first person to be prosecuted under the 1965 Race Relations Act was a Nazi who had stuck racist literature on an MP's door. A judge quashed the conviction, claiming the Nazi was only trying to persuade his MP to "change his policy and vote against people being allowed into the country". The first person to be jailed under the act was not a Nazi-it was black power activist Michael X. If the police had increased powers today they would target groups such as the Nation of Islam and still allow Nazis to get away.

The police log offences by black people against white people as "racist" to try and distort the figures. They want to use powers under the Crime and Disorder Act to prosecute black people for "racism". This flies in the face of those who are the victims of racism in society. The police are trying to show they are not racist in an attempt to escape reform after the Lawrence inquiry. But when they feel they are no longer under the spotlight they will revert to attacking black people and anti-racists and turning a blind eye to the Nazis. We should not give them ammunition by giving them more powers.