Former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission amid fears officers tried to discredit members of the Stephen Lawrence family, the force said.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson referred Sir Norman, saying he had “significant concerns” about his conduct at the time he was Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1998.
The concern is over a report commissioned by Sir Norman in 1998 which was prepared ahead of a key witness appearing at the Macpherson Inquiry.
Sir William Macpherson led a public inquiry into the handling of the Lawrence case by police and prosecutors which concluded the Metropolitan Police Service was “institutionally racist”.
It made 70 recommendations when published in 1999 which has had an enormous impact on the race relations debate including ensuring all public bodies now promote equality and tackle discrimination.
The referral follows a search for evidence across the police service for behaviour similar to that which attempted to discredit the Lawrence family when they were the target of covert surveillance.
The action comes alongside a similar matter which has been raised by Greater Manchester Police and their Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.
Both crime commissioners believe the evidence points to potential misconduct by serving police officers at the time of the Macpherson Inquiry and which requires urgent investigation.
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “I have become aware of three documents following a thorough search requested by West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Mark Gilmore.
“These documents raise significant concerns over the role of Sir Norman Bettison at the time he was Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police in 1998 in commissioning a report to be prepared in the respect of a key witness appearing before the Macpherson Inquiry.
“This may suggest an attempt to intervene in the course of a public inquiry and influence the manner in which the testimony of a witness, who was due to present evidence before it, was received.
“I have today referred this to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
“This is a matter which needs to be thoroughly investigated and, if wrongdoing is demonstrated, those responsible must face the consequences of their actions.
“Doreen Lawrence and her family need their treatment by the police service reviewed independently and this must be done as a matter of urgency.
“I am sure the Independent Police Complaints Commission will do the same for these separate issues of concern indicating possible corrupt practices in the later period around the Macpherson Inquiry.”
He added that he is now seeking an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary along with fellow Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Lloyd in Greater Manchester.
“Wider issues of any institutional racism in the police service may need to be tackled with a standalone inquiry but my referral to the IPCC today is to make sure we understand the truth regarding the conduct of Sir Norman Bettison,” Mr Burns-Williamson added.