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Dispatches programme highlights racism complaints

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Figures collated through Freedom of Information requests for Channel 4's Dispatches programme have revealed that out of 7963 complaints by the public of racism by forces over 8 years, only 77 were upheld. The figures related to 2005-2012 and concerned all forces in England and Wales.

The programme itself further revealed that 16 officers received 5 or more complaints of racist behaviour while another 43 had 4 allegations though none of these were upheld by internal investigations.

Dame Anne Owers, the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) watchdog, said the police were not handling the complaints well. She said that "common sense would tell you" that it was wrong to conclude from the figures that police forces no longer had a problem with racism. She stated that it also appeared that the complaints were not investigated thoroughly if the complainant did not have video or audio evidence.

The programme highlighted the case of Sylbert Farquharson who was paid £250,000 by the Met after what a judge called a "particularly vicious and cowardly form of racist abuse" in 2003. However the Met responded to Dispatches: "The matter has been thoroughly investigated and the allegations were not substantiated. The officer has since returned to full duties."

The programme also indicated that forces have paid out compensation more often than they have upheld complaints. For example the Met paid out on 45 occasions but only upheld 13 complaints. The Met was quoted as saying "We will defend our position but out-of-court settlements, with no admission of liability, will also form part of the consideration in order to avoid costly litigation.'

Emma McClure, human rights law team 

Our specialist team can offer advice and assistance on complaints against the Police, claims and settlements.