The Labour leadership on Croydon Council “should be ashamed”, according to a leading black activist, over their decision to award one of the borough’s highest civic honours to a former senior Metropolitan Police officer who was heavily criticised over his conduct in the investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.
For 20 years until he stood down last May, David Osland was a Conservative councillor for the Croydon ward of Coulsdon West.
But in April 1993, at the time of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence’s brutal murder in Eltham, Osland was the third-highest ranking officer at Scotland Yard. As the deputy assistant commissioner for south-east London, he was directly responsible for the original investigation, which failed to get a conviction.
It was 2012 before the police finally managed to obtain a conviction for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, although the Daily Mail newspaper had published a front page identifying five prime suspects in 1997.
Dissatisfaction with senior Met officers’ handling of the investigation eventually led to a high-profile public inquiry chaired by Sir William McPherson in 1999. The inquiry’s findings were extremely critical and infamously accused the Metropolitan Police of being “institutionally racist”.
Osland gave evidence to the inquiry over two days, which saw him booed from the public gallery. The resulting report singled him out for particular responsibility for allowing the breakdown in the police’s relationship with Stephen Lawrence’s family and their lawyer.
“Mr Osland should not be surprised that some who heard his evidence might regard this as another example of institutional racism at work,” the report said.