Guidance in dealing with the police

Who should you contact?

The police have sufficient powers to take action if you have been racially harassed. This is because racial harassment can encompass many criminal offences, such as common assault, threatening behaviour, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, and attempted arson etc.


Should you involve the police?

Yes, the Police are responsible for investigating criminal offences, and ensuring that persons are prosecuted. They investigate a crime, arrest persons, and collect evidence. They pass information up to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who, in fact, make the decision to prosecute, or not to prosecute. If the police do not send the sufficient information then no-one will be prosecuted, and dealt with through the criminal justice system, they will not be punished for these offences. It is therefore important that you aware what information is being collated and how it is being used. If you want the perpetrator of racial violence to be punished you must ensure that the police press charges.

You should always report incidents. The Police now operate a positive arrest policy for racist crimes. This means that where there is sufficient evidence of an offence, with a power of arrest, the suspect(s) will be arrested.

Even if the police are not in a position to take no action in response to that report, you will have a record of incidents to show that you felt they were worth reporting. This is especially important in cases where assailants defend themselves by making counter-allegations.

Remember if you have been racially harassed, it is likely that the perpetrator will harass you again.


What do the police consider as a racist incident?

The police will use the following definition to identify a racist incident

“A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.

Since the publication of the Macpherson report the police will consider the term “racist incident” to include both crimes and non crimes and should report, record and investigate with equal commitment.

In an emergency dial 999. Otherwise telephone your police station and ask to speak to the control room. Tell them you want to report a racist crime or incident.

You should give them as much information as possible to help them identify the perpetrator. Remember that the police will be attempting to find the perpetrator, and they will look at the quality of evidence. You should also give the details of all the witnesses to the incident. Officers at the scene are likely to pass Community Safety Unit.


What is a Community Safety Unit

They will be responsible for investigating incidents, and ensuring that some Community Safety Units were established in June 1998 specifically to deal with and domestic violence crime.

Further information about London Borough Community Safety Units is available at


What can the police do?

The police/CPS can charge perpetrators with a wide range of offences. Nearly all incidents of racial harassment will amount to a criminal offence of some sort. The police cannot arrest suspects for any offence. They only have this power in connection with more serious incidents.

The following is a list of offences relevant to racial harassment

  • Breach of the peace
  • Other public order offences, including threatening, abusive and in and behaviour
  • Common assault
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • Causing grievous bodily harm
  • Criminal damage
  • A new offence of harassment under the Protection Against Harassment Act

The police can arrest persons for the above offences, if the officer reasonably suspects the person is committing an offence, or if he has reasonable grounds for believing that an arrest is necessary, to prevent the suspect from causing person injury to some person, or causing loss of damage to property.

If the police say that they cannot make an arrest or that they cannot pursue the matter further, you should immediately seek advice.


What can you do if you are unhappy with the Police response

The Metropolitan Police Service have set a special unit to co-ordinate their response to racist incidents. The Race and Violent Crime Task Force gathers intelligence on perpetrators and advises local Community Safety Units on how to investigate incidents.

If you unhappy with the response from the local police, you can contact the Race and Violent Task Force and ask for assistance. They can be contacted at

Race and Violent Crime Task Force

Territorial Policing Headquarters
Room 336
Victoria Embankment

Tel:  020 7321 9133


Complaining about the police

If you are not satisfied with the way that the police dealt with you, then you can make an Official Complaint. You should make a note of the time and date you contacted the police, what you told them and their response.

You can then make a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The address is

5th Floor
90 High Holborn

Tel: 08453 002 002

This will be dealt with by officers from a different police area, and can lead to the relevant police officer being disciplined. You should also file a complaint where a police officer is rude, or makes any comments about race.

In order to ensure that your complaint is taken seriously, you should log all these incidents. If you are unhappy with the conduct of the police, The Monitoring Group can be contacted for further assistance.


In summary when involving the police, remember to

  • In an emergency, ALWAYS PHONE 999. If you get no response then complain 
  • Inform them of any racial abuse or motive
  • Give them as much information as possible about the incident, and/or any steps that may have been taken against the perpetrator previously such as injunctions, orders or bindovers
  • Log names and shoulder numbers of police officers involved in your case
  • If for any reason, the police also suspect you of some wrongdoing, obtain immediate legal advice and support and contact the Monitoring Group.