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  • Published in Opinion
British policeman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

British policeman. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Stop and search powers continue to be used disproportionately against black and minority ethnic people. Floyd Codlin investigates this ongoing problem

The claim has been made a number of times by the right wing commentariat that if it were not for a PC political backlash, the police would be able to fight violent crime. So let’s have a look at this. According to the Express on April 20th 2018, Simon Kempton, the Federation’s representative on stop and search said: “At the moment because of how it has been treated by politicians, police officers are increasingly simply not using the powers because they fear they will be caught up in a political football.”

The announcement from the Police Federation follows Boris Johnson calling for a crackdown on gangs through the use of stop and search powers. The former mayor of London said the police “needed to use their stop and search powers to bring order to the streets of the capital.” The police on Merseyside, also made the same plea;

Sadiq Khan obviously agreed with Boris Johnson and said on 10 January 2018 that “there will be a “significant increase” in targeted stop and searches by police in London as part of efforts to combat rising violent crime”. The mayor also said that although the controversial searches can cause tension, they are a “vital tool for police to keep our communities safe”.

It is clear that the issue of racism in stop and search did not start in 2018. Martin Beckford pointed out in 2012 in the Telegraph: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that in some areas, black people are 30 times more likely to be targeted by officers looking for weapons than whites”.

Also see the ‘Stop and Search: Exploring Disproportionality’, report from Jean Hine, De Montfort University, Community and Criminal Justice Division, July 2015.

As an issue, it seems to have become worse the more that racism has become normalized in society. Anja Popp, of Channel 4 News points out that “Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs, that’s despite the fact that white people are far more likely to use illegal substances.”

During the ‘Effect of police stop and search powers on BAME communities’, discussion, in Westminster Hall, 23rd May 2018, it was stated: “At the time, the then Home Secretary Theresa May made the following comments: “The findings of the HMIC inspection, were deeply concerning. The inspectorate reported that 27% of the stop-and-search records it examined did not contain reasonable grounds to search people, even though many of these records had been endorsed by supervising officers”. 

If the HMIC sample is accurate, more than a quarter of the 1 million or so stops carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 last year could have been illegal. This is not the only worrying statistic. Official figures show that if someone is black or from a minority ethnic background, they are up to six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than if they are white, and only about 10% of stops result in an arrest.” 

Events on 9 June and then 13 October of this year have shown the potency of a pro-fascist street movement. But the racists are also in Whitehall, House of Commons and other arms of the establishment, especially the police. That is why it’s important that we show the racists, in and out of uniform on 17 November, on the anti-racist mobilization organized by Stand Up to Racism and others, that these streets are our streets. That black and white can unite and fight, and that as “Black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Muslims and Jews, there are many more of us than you”

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