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Hampshire Police criticised for ‘scandalous’ response over ‘racism’ investigation | UK News



A police force has been accused of a “scandalous” lack of transparency after refusing to divulge details of allegations that saw five members of staff suspended.

Hampshire Constabulary confirmed in February it was investigating 16 police officers and three civilian staff over claims by a force employee they used “inappropriate and prejudiced” language and behaviour.

The probe was launched last year after covert recording devices allegedly caught officers making racist and homophobic comments at the force’s investigation centre in Basingstoke, according to reports.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Sky News asked Hampshire Police to provide a short summary of complaints made against staff at the centre – since it opened in August 2017 – and the outcome of the force’s investigation into the allegations.

But Hampshire Police told Sky News it does not hold the information “in a retrievable format” and it would cost too much to provide it.

“In order to ascertain a list of complaints against staff at the police investigation centre in Basingstoke, a large manual review would need to be undertaken,” a force spokesman said.

“There are no means by which to search complaints by location and, as such, all complaints for the period in question would need to be reviewed to see whether they took place in the Basingstoke police investigation centre.”

A Hampshire Police spokeswoman later clarified that the investigation is still under way and it would be “unable to provide any further information until it has been concluded”.

Anti-racism charity The Monitoring Group criticised the force’s initial response and pointed to the damning inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which stressed the need for police to be more open about racism allegations.

Stephen Lawrence died in 1993
An inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder said police need to be open about racism allegations

The group’s director Suresh Grover told Sky News: “It is scandalous that police cannot be more transparent about the language that has been used.

“The Lawrence Inquiry recommendations stressed the ultimate need for authorities, especially police services, to be more open when investigating racist behaviour given that racism only ferments and spreads in secrecy.”

Mr Grover said the investigation into 19 police employees “raises a number of serious concerns”, adding: “The fact that it involves an investigation of a large group of staff members exposes the possibility of an existing office culture of prejudice, similar to the canteen culture that existed in police forces in the 1970s.”

Former cabinet minister Maria Miller, who is the MP for Basingstoke, told Sky News she planned to write to Hampshire Police and speak to the policing minister to raise her concerns.

She said: “It’s vital that the general public have confidence in the police and their ability to deal with any type of discrimination fairly, including racism.

Maria Miller
Maria Miller MP said police ‘have to be transparent in their handling of these serious allegations’

“The police have to be transparent in their handling of these serious allegations and it is in the public interest for Hampshire residents to know whether the allegations made have been upheld or not and whether subsequent disciplinary action was taken.”

Five Hampshire Police employees were suspended and 11 were placed on restricted duties as part of the investigation, which began in February 2018.

The probe is being carried out by the force’s professional standards department and is being supervised by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The outcome of the investigation is expected to be made public “in the summer”, a Hampshire Police spokeswoman said.

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