IPCC chair says it would be wrong to conclude from the figures that police forces no longer have a problem with racism
"Common sense would tell you that it was wrong to conclude from the figures that police forces no longer had a problem with racism."
Dame Anne Owers, the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) watchdog
Members of the public lodged 7,963 allegations of racism against police officers in England and Wales over an eight-year period, according to the figures, of which 77 were upheld when the police investigated them. Three officers have been dismissed as a result.
The figures, collated through freedom of information requests by Channel 4 for a Dispatches programme to be broadcast on Monday, show that 16 officers attracted five or more allegations of racist conduct from the public, while another 43 officers had four allegations, although none have been upheld by the police's 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 suggested that complaints did not appear to be investigated rigorously by the police if the complainant did not have video or audio evidence.
Police chiefs have consistently pledged to stamp out prejudice within their forces since the landmark Macpherson report into the botched investigation of the Stephen Lawrence murder. It found institutional racism within the Metropolitan police, Britain's biggest force, in 1999.
Senior police officers once again vowed to improve. Mike Cunningham, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the programme that the police "need to be very robust" about enhancing public confidence in their internal investigation procedures of complaints and getting rid of racist officers.
He added: "There is no place for racism in the police service. That is a fundamental requirement of being a member of the British police service and if an officer falls short of those high expectations, in some cases immediately, they ought to be dismissed."
Dispatches spotlights the case of Sylbert Farquharson, who was subjected to what a judge called a "particularly vicious and cowardly form of racist abuse" by police officers. One of the officers who was accused in a civil court of taking part is still employed by the police, according to Dispatches.
In 2003, the Met paid Farquharson £250,000 after he was violently assaulted, subjected to racist abuse and prosecuted on trumped-up charges.
The judge ruled that Farquharson, then 57, who he described as "a respectable, middle-aged family man of good character", would be unable to work again.
The court heard how Farquharson, then a delivery van driver, had seen his cousin being arrested on a street in Brixton, south London, in 1995 and stopped to speak to the police. He said police officers threw him to the ground and handcuffed him as he struggled to breathe.
He told the court that a police officer knelt on his back and called him "a fucking black bastard".
The court heard that a constable suggested a shoe could be tied to his belt loop, adding: "He's a fucking coon, let's give him a fucking tail."
Investigations by the police found no evidence of racial abuse by the constable, who denied all the allegations.
The programme filmed him walking into work last month. Farquharson said it was "disgusting and unacceptable" that the officer was still employed the force.
The Met said: "The matter has been thoroughly investigated and the allegations were not substantiated. The officer has since returned to full duties."
The figures have been collated by Dispatches – covering 2005 to 2012 – from every police force in England and Wales.
They show that the Met only upheld 0.4% of complaints from the public about racist conduct. Following criticism from the IPCC, Scotland Yard admitted last July that the way they dealt with the complaints was "letting down the public" and vowed to reform and learn.
According to the Dispatches programme, police have paid out compensation to complainants on more occasions than they upheld complaints. The Met paid compensation on 45 occasions, but only upheld complaints 13 times.
The Met said: "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."
They added: "All staff are aware that racism will not be tolerated. We also believe that the steps we continue to take through our targeted recruitment programme, to create a Met which is more representative of London's diversity, will help to build confidence in London's communities."