LONDON (AP) - London’s top counterterrorism police officer was removed from his post Friday after he was implicated in a report that concluded the force spied on the family of a murdered teenager - a notorious killing whose aftermath exposed police racism and incompetence.
Cmdr. Richard Walton was transferred to a backroom job, London’s police force said, following publication of a report on the killing of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed in a racist attack at a bus stop in 1993.
No one was convicted of the murder for almost 20 years, and the botched case is seen as one of the biggest failures in the history of British policing.
The report by senior lawyer Mark Ellison found that an undercover policeman spied on Lawrence’s relatives during a public inquiry into the force’s handing of the case in the late 1990s. That inquiry concluded that the force was “institutionally racist.”
Walton was one of the police officers assigned to make submissions to the inquiry. The report found he had a “completely improper” meeting with the undercover officer while it was underway.
Ellison also found evidence that the original investigation was tainted by corruption. One of the investigating officers, John Davidson, was suspected of having links to Clifford Norris, a gangster whose son David was one of the suspects.
Home Secretary Theresa May called the report “deeply shocking” and announced yet another inquiry - this time into the work of Scotland Yard’s undercover Special Demonstrations Squad.
The squad has already come under fire after revelations that for decades its officers infiltrated protest groups, in some cases forming long-term sexual relationships with activists.
Two men were eventually convicted of Lawrence’s killing in 2012, though several other suspects remain at large.
Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said the Ellison report had been “devastating” for the force and promised to restore “the trust and the confidence of the people of London” in the police.
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