‘Disproportionate’ use of stop and search powers is ’alienating communities’ and ‘destroying trust’

Police in a line
Chris Jarvis

New figures have exposed the reality of the Metropolitan Police’s stop and search policy. Black people are now even more likely to be disproportionately targeted by police officers using stop and search powers in London than in previous years.

Disproportionate

Figures published by the Guardian show that in 2018 Black people were 4.3 times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white peers. This has increased significantly over the previous four years. In 2014, Black people were 2.6 times more likely to face being stopped and searched.

The analysis also revealed that Black people were subjected to nearly half of all searches carried out by the Met. This is particularly shocking given that only 13.3% of Londoners are Black.

And it further highlighted the fact that searches on Black people are less likely to find evidence of wrongdoing or lead to an arrest.

Unpopular

Unsurprisingly, the new figures have led to the Met facing criticism.

Green Party peer Jenny Jones condemned the stop and search policy. She argued it is based on “racial profiling” and that it ‘alienates communities’:

Meanwhile, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott pinpointed the fact that “root causes” need addressing rather than ‘disproportionate’ use of stop and search:

And speaking to the Guardian, Labour MP David Lammy said:

Stop and search disproportionately and unfairly targets young black men. It destroys trust between police and the communities they serve.

Stop and search is consistently ineffective at reducing violent crime and reliance on it gets in the way of long-term solutions to address its root problems.

These responses join the chorus of criticism of the stop and search policy. And pressure has been mounting on the police to change tack. This erupted earlier this year when Nish Kumar slammed the policy in a heated exchange on Question Time.

Wider problems

This isn’t the first time the Met has come under fire this year for racial profiling. Earlier in January, The Canary reported on the excessive number of strip searches used in custody.

As with stop and searches, these are disproportionately used against Black and Minority Ethnic people. And it has led to allegations of institutional racism.

Police response

The Met responded to the figures, telling the Guardian:

We are convinced that stop and search is an effective tactic in preventing and detecting crime… Over 4,200 weapons were also taken off the streets last year as a direct result of stop and searches.

It also stated:

The Met has seen an increase in the use of the tactic over the last year particularly within the last six months, largely due to the increase in street violence and related drug crime.

Crime is not proportionate and the root causes are complex. Knife crime and street violence disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage both in terms of victims and perpetrators.

In an ill-timed tweet, the Met celebrated stop and search on the day the figures were revealed:

The police were able to post an image of weapons they found through searches in this instance. However, this is an exception rather than the norm. Only 21% of searches for weapons on white people lead to an arrest and the figure is lower – at 16% – for searches on Black people.

Not all of the police echoed the support for stop and search though. Tola Munro, president of the National Black Police Association spoke out against his peers. He slammed what he described as “systemic racial profiling” and told the Guardian:

It is no excuse to suggest that weapons or drugs are more likely to be found on black and Asian people. Even if there were that does not excuse this disproportionality – it’s not unconscious, it’s systemic racial profiling.

The evidence is mounting against the stop and search policy. It’s been found to be both racist and ineffective. It’s high time it was scrapped.

Featured image via Emily Apple

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