10:21, October 26 71 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-26 10:21:03
Stop and search eight times more likely to target black people

The racial gap in the use of stop and search by police has grown in the past year, leaving black people eight times more likely to be targeted by officers than white people.

Official figures released on Thursday show the racial disparity in stop and search has increased, despite government pressure for the gap to close.

The figures show overall use of stop and search has fallen by 21% in the past year to just under 304,000 incidences across England and Wales, the lowest number since 2002.

But stops of white people dropped by 28%, while for minority ethnic people the fall was just 11%.

People classed as black British were eight times more likely to be stopped than white people, while those from all minority ethnic communities were four times more likely to be stopped than white people.

The Labour MP David Lammy, who chaired a government review of racial disparity in the criminal justice system, said the figures were shocking. He told the Guardian: “We cannot continue to have different policing for different communities – it is inherently unfair – and so these figures suggesting that we are actually going backwards are deeply alarming.”

The data shows that 17% of stops led to an arrest, up by 1% on the previous year.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, said: “Figures show stop and search reforms are working. The stop-to-arrest rate has risen and once again is the highest on record, and the new ‘best use of stop and search’ scheme data shows that over two-thirds of searches result in some kind of police action.

“However, no one should be stopped because of their race or ethnicity. Chief constables will need to explain disparities in their force areas, because if stop and search powers are misused it is counterproductive and damages confidence in policing.”

The Home Office says it will continue to press police chiefs for reform on stop and search.

Lammy, the MP for Tottenham in north London, said: “The disproportionality that I found throughout the criminal justice system begins with stop and search. For so many young black men in Britain today, the frequency at which they are being stopped and searched means that, from their perspective, they feel as though they are living in a police state. As I found in my review for the government, the disproportionate use of stop and search drains trust in our justice system.

“As we speak there will be a young, white middle class man smoking a joint at a campus university and the police will be nowhere in sight. If someone rang the police, the assumption would be that they were wasting their time. But a young black man walking through Brixton or on Tottenham High Road will be stopped and searched, and end up with a criminal record that blights their life chances for ever.”

DCC Adrian Hanstock, the national strategic lead on stop and search, said: “It is clear that officers are being more precise in their use of this power, with the total number of stops falling, the arrest rate continuing to rise and six in 10 stops resulting in an outcome.

“Sadly, we are seeing young black men disproportionately reflected in knife crime, both as victims and suspected offenders. We are equally concerned that people from BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] backgrounds are generally overrepresented in stop and search figures and in the criminal justice system as a whole. Chief constables will be examining any local disparities in stop and search data and will work directly with local communities to explain the reasons.

“We know that trust in the police is lower among some communities, and so we have made greater efforts to include those communities in our scrutiny of stop and search, and to build confidence in policing and address the issues that are most important to them.”