Met cautious on stop and search extension

Stop and search powers should not be extended without the support of the communities likely to be extended, the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) said today.

With the government poised to extend powers to stop and search suspects under the guise of cutting police paperwork, the MPA warned stop and search powers must be used with respect and sensitivity.

John Roberts, the MPA’s lead member for stop and search scrutiny, said the powers were “vital” in the fight against crime and terrorism but must be used with respect and subject to scrutiny.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan is expected to publish his review of policing next week and the MPA said it would hold off its full response until then.

But the government is known to be sympathetic to calls to scrap the paperwork accompanying stop and search. The Conservative leader David Cameron has also called for the powers to be extended.

Since the MacPherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence police have been required to keep a record of everyone stopped and searched on the street.

Mr Cameron argued this is no longer necessary as the police force has been purged of institutional racism.

But chief superintendent Ali Dizaei, president of the National Black Police Association, said the reintroduction of “such draconian powers” would do “untold damage to police and community relations and damage the fight against terrorism at a time when we most need the support of all communities.”

The MPA today appeared to concur with this view.

Mr Roberts continued: “We reply on strong community-police relations and if we are to retain public trust and support, stop and search powers must be used fairly as part of intelligence-led policing.

“We all want to see less bureaucracy to free up police to spend even more time on the streets as long as we retain full accountability of their actions.

“Police stops are one of the most contentious policing issues for London’s black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, and we therefore need to ensure that police use of these powers is acceptable to and supported by all concerned.”

Amid reports gun murders are rising, the Liberal Democrats today called on the police to devote more time to stop and searches for knives and crimes but must also work with the communities affected by gun and knife crime.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne warned: “Draconian measures introduced without the support of communities could be highly counter-productive.

“Labour and the Tories should listen to the views of frontline police in the National Black Police Association about key safeguards for minority communities.”