Police in England and Wales face review into possible racial bias

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The police watchdog is launching a probe into whether officers across England and Wales racially discriminate against ethnic minorities.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) review will focus on the use of force and stop and search. It comes amid tensions over the police’s handling of recent cases that have been caught on camera.

“Systemic issues which should be addressed”

IOPC director general Michael Lockwood said a review will be launched in the coming months. The review will focus on racism “to establish the trends and patterns which might help drive real change in policing practice”. He said:

Evidence of disproportionality in the use of police powers has long been a concern which impacts on confidence in policing, particularly in the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities.

But even with the numbers and the statistics, particularly from stop and search data, we still need to better understand the causes and what can and should be done to address this.

In the coming months, we will be launching race discrimination as a thematic area of focus to establish the trends and patterns which might help drive real change in policing practice.

Thematic case selection involves independently investigating more cases where racial discrimination may be a factor in order to develop a body of evidence to identify systemic issues which should be addressed.

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Bianca Williams police stop
Athlete Bianca Williams and her partner were pulled from their car for a stop and search in an incident which went viral online (Jonathan Brady/PA)

British sprinter Bianca Williams pulled from car by police

The announcement comes as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick apologised this week to athlete Bianca Williams for the “distress” caused by a stop and search.

A video of the incident showed police pulling the Great Britain sprinter and her partner Ricardo dos Santos from their car in a London street. Their three-month old son was also in the car. The video was posted online by former Olympic 100m champion Linford Christie.

Stop and search, use of force and hate crimes

Lockwood, who noted the IOPC only sees a small number of cases where discrimination is alleged, said:

Initially we will focus on investigating more cases where there is an indication that disproportionality impacts the BAME community, including stop and search and use of force.

We will also be investigating more cases where victims from BAME communities have felt unfairly treated by the police.

This could include whether the police are treating allegations of hate crime from BAME people seriously, and if there are cases where they’re failing to treat them as victims of crime.

The Guardian reports that the Met receives more than 250 complaints of racism on average each year, but less than 1% are upheld.

Lockwood added:

Increasing our focus on investigating cases where racial discrimination may be a factor means we will be able to really look at these encounters between the police and the public to identify any emerging themes. We can than see if there is a need to change policing policy or practice.

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