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Jackson calls for more integrated UK police force

A composite image of undated handout pictures shows Gary Dobson (L) and David Norris (R)

Story highlights

  • U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson challenges the UK to do more to tackle racism
  • The two men convicted of killing Stephen Lawrence were part of a gang of five
  • Jackson believes more could be done to create what he called a more integrated police service
  • The Metropolitan Police says it has made widespread changes since it was criticized in 1999

U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has challenged the UK to do more to tackle racism following the conviction of two men for a notorious racist murder more than 18 years ago.

Gary Dobson and David Norris were both sentenced in London Wednesday to more than 14 years in jail for killing black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993. But it took nearly two decades of campaigning by the Lawrence family and others, a change in the law and modern forensic techniques to bring the pair to justice.

London's Metropolitan Police had previously admitted there had been failures in the initial investigation and were criticized by the 1999 Macpherson inquiry, ordered by the government to examine the case.

Speaking in London, Jackson told CNN the verdict could be a significant moment, adding: "Britain has an obligation to turn this crisis into an opportunity."

The two convicted men were part of a gang of five that attacked Lawrence but the other three men remain free.

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"Evidence suggests that they barely caught them," Jackson said. "The investigation was slow and incomplete. It also suggests that there are three more on the loose... and that the community these young men came from incubated and protected them."

    Praising the persistence of the Lawrence family in seeking justice for their son, Jackson also highlighted economic strife as a cause of racial tension in general and said the media had a responsibility to break away from "cultural biases."

    But Jackson believes more could be done to create what he called a more integrated police service, urging black and white officers to attend crime scenes together.

    "Having black and white officers together creates more credibility in the way cases are handled," he said. "If we have integrated football teams then why can't we have an integrated police force? Why can't we have a black police chief?"

    The Macpherson report accused the Metropolitan force of "institutional racism" and made 70 recommendations for change.

    A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told CNN Wednesday that the force was much more conscious of these issues than it was 20 years ago, but doesn't deploy officers to crime scenes on the basis of their skin color. He also pointed to progress made in recruiting a workforce that reflects London's diverse population.

    A Metropolitan Police website produced 10 years on from the Macpherson report says it has improved its work with communities, the way it investigates murder and hate crime, and the way it creates a more representative workforce.

    The website said the force had three-and-a half-times more black and minority ethnic (BME) officers than in 1999. "This means that nearly 9% (2,700) of our police officers are BME, compared with just 3.4% (779) in 1999," it said.