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Rate of unsolved killings of Black and Asian people has trebled under Dick

Exclusive: Metropolitan Police accused of institutional racism as homicide cases with Black or Asian victims are more likely to go unsolved

finlay johnston
18 March 2022, 12.08pm
Campaigners said the findings show 'lack of leadership' within Cressida Dick's Met Police
Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire

The unsolved homicide rate for Black and Asian victims in London has almost trebled under Cressida Dick’s leadership of the Met Police, openDemocracy can reveal.

Since May 2017, 21% of homicides – including murder and manslaughter cases – where the victim is recorded as being Black or Asian have remained unsolved, 72 out of 344. In the five-year period before Dick’s promotion to commissioner, the figure stood just under 8% (20 out of 254), according to data released by the force and analysed by this website.

By contrast, unsolved homicide cases where the victim was white have risen from 9% to 13.6% over the same period of time, suggesting killings are now 50% less likely to be solved if the victim is Black or Asian than if they are white.

The Met considers a case to be solved when someone has been charged with the crime, although this does not mean that they have been convicted.

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Campaigners have said openDemocracy’s findings are akin to “evidence of racial inequality” and “lack of leadership” within the Met.

Dick announced she would be stepping down from her role last month after losing the support of mayor of London Sadiq Khan following a string of high-profile scandals.

Last year, Dick denied the Met was institutionally racist, telling the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee that racism “is not a massive systemic problem. It is not institutionalised. More to the point, we have come such a very long way”.

Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, defended Dick after her resignation announcement, saying: “She was reforming. She was changing.”

But the homicide data suggests the force was changing for the worse.

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Since the start of 2020, 20% of homicides where the victim is Black or Asian (27 out of 134) have not been solved. For white victims, the figure is 8.5%.

Liz Fekete, director of the Institute of Race Relations, said this disparity “speaks volumes about the lack of leadership displayed by outgoing commissioner Cressida Dick”.

“These figures are indicative of what the Macpherson Report classically defined as institutional racism…It is vital that the Metropolitan Police, beset by multiple scandals over racist police officers, stop and search and excessive use of force against [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities, does not resort to tired excuses about lack of intelligence, or a wall of silence about knife crime homicides in poor Black neighbourhoods.

“The next Met commissioner should reflect seriously on the implications of this data for the policing of London.”

‘Deeply distressing’

During Dick’s tenure, the overall rate of unsolved homicides has doubled, now standing at 18%. In the five years before her promotion, the figure was 9%.

Between 2003 and 2014, there was a steady decline in homicide rates across the capital. The proportion of those that went unsolved also decreased during that period – falling from 13% in 2006 to 5% in 2014.

However, 2017, 2018 and 2019 saw the highest numbers of unsolved homicides since data started being made public in 2003 – all of which were during Dick’s tenure.

The data also shows that, if a homicide occurs in a poorer borough, the Met is less likely to charge someone than in a more affluent borough. Since 2017, 21% of homicides in London’s five poorest boroughs have not been solved. In London’s five wealthiest boroughs, the figure is just 5%.

Such stark disparity between successful homicide investigations in rich and poor boroughs has not always existed. Between 2012 and 2017, 7% of homicides went unsolved in the five poorest boroughs, whereas in the five richest boroughs, the figure was 12%.

Jabeer Butt, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation, described these figures as “deeply distressing”, adding that the Met “will need to urgently answer how it intends to address this evidence of racial inequality”.

The Met has faced severe criticism for the way it handled the murder of Black sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in Tottenham in June 2020. An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report described the Met’s conduct as “unacceptable”, and the mother of the victims said their disappearance would have been handled more urgently if they were white.

21% of homicides in London’s five poorest boroughs have not been solved, compared to 5% in the five wealthiest boroughs

On Tuesday, a safeguarding report revealed that the Met Police strip-searched a Black schoolgirl after she was wrongly accused of carrying cannabis. According to the review, the child was forced to expose intimate body parts and take off her sanitary towel. No drugs were found. The force offered an apology, calling the incident “truly regrettable”. The case is now being investigated by the IOPC.

The incident comes after another IOPC report, published last month, unearthed shocking examples of racism among officers based at Charing Cross Police Station.

“It is vital that all Londoners, including Londoners from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds, feel properly protected and served by their police,” a spokesperson for the mayor of London, said in relation to openDemocracy’s findings.

“This is why, as part of his action plan to improve trust and confidence in the Met, the mayor has introduced increased community scrutiny and oversight of the service as it continues to prioritise homicide investigations and fulfils its function of keeping Londoners safe.”

A spokesperson for the Met Police told openDemocracy: “Any life lost through violence in London is a tragedy and simply one too many. Our thoughts are with the victims and all those impacted. No murder investigation is ever closed and our officers remain committed to ensuring that every family finds the justice that they deserve.”

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