The fatal stabbing of Stephen Lawrence, a Black teenager, in 1993 proved an embarrassment for the British authorities. The failure to properly investigate the crime by a gang of white youths prompted an inquiry to conclude that London’s Metropolitan Police suffered from “institutional racism.”
Although the case has garnered a great deal of media coverage, the subsequent careers of some high-ranking officers involved have not been subject to scrutiny. While undertaking some research lately, I was shocked to learn that one such officer was subsequently tasked with setting up the EU’s police support operation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Jonathan McIvor, the policeman in question, was chief inspector in Plumstead, south-east London, in 1993. He was the most senior uniformed officer on duty in the area where Lawrence was killed on 22 April that year. The report of a public inquiry chaired by William Macpherson, a retired judge, found that McIvor did not “meet his responsibilities” on the night of the murder.
According to the inquiry report — published in 1999 — McIvor had regarded himself as “superfluous” on the night and “concerned himself only with possible future public order implications” of the killing. His attitude came “as a matter of considerable surprise since we regard Mr. McIvor as an important person in the chain of command,” the report states.
Everything under control?
Because of his seniority, McIvor should have “taken charge” and ensured there was proper coordination between police officers, according to the inquiry report.
Conveying the impression he believed “things were under control,” McIvor was ignorant of the most basic details. “For example, he did not know that there had been an eyewitness to the murder,” the report adds. The report also states that McIvor defined himself as a “manager” solely focused on public order.
While he had only spent four months in Plumstead at that point, McIvor “does seem to be less aware than we would expect of other racist incidents and violence” in the area, the report states, adding: “He used the phrase and concept of ‘manager’ rather like a shield to defend himself from any suggestion of operational responsibility.”
That blemish on his record did not prevent McIvor from being appointed to other positions that could euphemistically be called “sensitive” in nature. One year after the murder he began working for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a force which had a reputation for discriminating against Catholics in the North of Ireland.
Spending almost a decade in the North of Ireland, McIvor was actually tasked with developing “community policing.”
In 2004 — in his capacity as a police adviser for a British government department — he started working on bolstering the Palestinian Authority’s police. The following year, he was hired by the European Union to set up its Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (COPPS). McIvor prepared that operation — the EU’s first “security” mission in Palestine — for its formal launch at the beginning of 2006 and served as COPPS’ first chief.
Subservient to apartheid
The primary purpose of COPPS is to increase cooperation between the Palestinian Authority’s police and the Israeli forces of occupation. This means that a policeman who displayed a disturbing nonchalance about a racist murder in the area where he was on duty has sought to make the PA’s police subservient to Israel’s apartheid regime.
I asked Michael Mann, the EU’s foreign policy spokesperson, if background checks were carried out on McIvor before he started heading the COPPS operation. Mann replied that candidates for such posts are “put forward” by EU governments and “appointed” by the diplomats sitting on the EU’s political and security committee.
Perhaps inadvertently, Mann has succeeded in being both evasive and informative. The reason why I say the reply is informative is that it indicates that McIvor was sent to Palestine by the British government then headed by Tony Blair.
As prime minister, Blair promised that the findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry would “bring a new era of race relations.” While Blair described the murder as “appalling,” his government sought out a top EU post for a policeman who didn’t seem too bothered by it.
Sending McIvor to Palestine was an affront to Stephen Lawrence’s family and friends and to elementary justice. Yet it was a victory for institutional racism.