WHAT price for a picture of a black woman in a bikini with the head of a gorilla replacing her own head? Do I hear 360 pounds bid? Or a picture featuring white eyes and teeth on a black background captioned “Night scene in Harlem, New York”? Or the decapitated head of a black man impaled on a fence after a police chase. Or...well there's no need to go on. Pictures such as these were circulating in Merseyside Police Force until someone put a stop to them and charged the officers involved in circulating them as e-mails. It is seven years since the Macpherson inquiry into the racist murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in South London concluded that the Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist”. Whether the same term can be applied to the Merseyside force as a whole, or the e-mails were just the work of a few bad apples, it is profoundly depressing to find that policemen whose job is to administer the law without racial discrimination can be guilty of the kind of thoughtless and knee-jerk racism represented by these e-mails. It is even more depressing to discover that the maximum punishment given to the ten uniformed officers and three civilian workers involved was the loss of three days' pay and a written warning. Three days' pay; that's where the 360 pounds mentioned earlier comes into it. The president of the National Black Police Association called the fine “derisory” (an understatement, surely) and correctly said that the officers concerned should have been dismissed. The Chief Constable of Merseyside issued the sort of statement that Chief Constables always issue on these occasions, stressing that “Police staff know there is absolutely no place in this organisation for this kind of material. All staff now know that anyone breaching the mail policy will face the severest penalties.” So the problem is “breaching the mail policy” is it? Surely the problem is the racist mindset of the people the police recruit, yet the Chief Constable says nothing about that. Institutionally racist, still. No change.