10:23, December 13 242 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-13 10:23:03
Police less likely to find drugs on black people during stop and search

Black people are less likely to be found carrying drugs when stopped and searched in England and Wales than white people, according to a “troubling” finding by the police watchdog.

An analysis by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that one in four black people searched for drugs were found to be carrying them, compared with one in three white people.

The disproportionality persisted in cases where grounds for the search included the smell of cannabis.

“The disparity in find rates is troubling,” said the watchdog. “It suggests that the use of stop and search on black people might be based on weaker grounds for suspicion than its use on white people, particularly in respect of drugs.

“There may be a number of reasons for these findings but, taken alongside the fact that black people are more than eight times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, they require an explanation that the service is currently unable to provide.”

The HMICFRS analysis, contained within its annual report on policing legitimacy, assessed 8,574 stop and search records – about 200 from each force – for the reasonableness of the recorded ground for a stop and search, as well as the ethnicity of the person detained, and whether the item searched for was found.

Disproportionality in the use of stop and search has increased despite an overall drop in the use of the tactic to about a quarter of that in 2011-12, when black people were five times more likely to be stopped.

While the number of white people stopped and searched was down 78%, the number of black people stopped had fallen by just 66%.

The report also noted that many officers were unaware of recent College of Policing guidance that the smell of cannabis would not normally justify a search, with 7% of stop and search records citing it as the sole grounds. It called on forces to train officers to consider “multiple strong grounds” when deciding whether to search.

Deputy chief constable Adrian Hanstock, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for stop and search, said forces had made “good progress” in applying stop and search powers legitimately and fairly. He said the NPCC was looking at why young black men are disproportionately stopped.

“We are working closely with the Home Office, College of Policing and a range of independent experts to critically analyses the data we collect, as well as commission further research to help us better understand why some groups, such as young black men, are disproportionately reflected not only in stop and search figures but also as victims of violent crime and across the criminal justice system as a whole,” Hanstock said.

Carson Arthur, of the campaign group StopWatch, said the disproportionality in the use of stop and search reflected its history as a tactic employed in conjunction with drug laws to disrupt and control black and minority ethnic communities in Britain.

“It’s not surprising to read that report, in particular that finding that white people are more likely to [be caught] carrying drugs yet black people are disproportionately stopped and searched,” he said.

“It just vindicates what a lot of black people who have been stopped and searched have been saying for many years.”