Police racism complaints increase

CONCERNS have been raised over the increasing numbers of complaints of racial discrimination directed at Suffolk police, it emerged today.

CONCERNS have been raised over the increasing numbers of complaints of racial discrimination directed at Suffolk police, it emerged today.

While the county's police authority admits the figures remain relatively low, the number of claims has more than doubled in four years.

The revelation comes only weeks after it emerged that black people were nine times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police in Ipswich.

The Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) is currently preparing a detailed report into the disproportionality.

Today, Gulshan Kayembe, chair of Suffolk Police Authority said the number of complaints of racial discrimination was an issue the force and the authority were “taking seriously”.

In 2004/05, only six complaints were made, but by 2007/08, that figure had risen to 15.

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Mrs Kayembe said: “There is a rising trend of complaints but it's important to remember the numbers are very small.

“Nonetheless, we do need to look at this carefully and drill down. This is an issue the police and the police authority are taking seriously.”

Mrs Kayembe said a working group had been created to examine the figures in detail.

But she added: In a way it's important to encourage more people to complain when they are unhappy.

“It can be seen as a positive because it shows they feel the police will deal fairly with their complaint.”

Last month, race campaigners described stop and search figures in Suffolk as “unacceptable”.

Jane Basham, director of ISCRE, said: “There is a strong underlying and continued trend of disproportionality in Suffolk.

“Our research in Ipswich, which has significant support from Suffolk police, will be published shortly.

“We are hopeful that with the support of the police the final recommendations will be implemented and we will start to see an improvement.

“This matter needs to be taken really seriously now.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “We are committed to investigating fully any complaints made about the Constabulary, its officers or staff.

“The number of complaints of racial discrimination remain low in Suffolk; each case is treated extremely seriously. The recent increase is, in the main, due to one particular incident in which a number of people were stopped for alleged drugs offences in Ipswich.

“Over recent years we have been working hard to raise awareness of the complaints procedure. We are also developing a third-party reporting system, whereby people can go to an external independent group or organisation to report a complaint.

“This work and ongoing development is a demonstration of our commitment to make the Constabulary more accessible, particularly for those people who would like to raise concerns about the standard of service they receive from our officers and staff.”

Have you been the victim of racism? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk