The battle against stop-and-search ‘discrimination’

By Ian Dunt

Police forces which persistently stop-and-search more blacks and Asians than white people could face legal action, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said today.

The comments came as the commission published a report showing many police forces have singularly failed to make their stop-and-search procedures more proportionate – and that some were getting worse.

“It is time that we saw real improvement in these statistics. It is not enough for the police simply to launch new initiatives if those initiatives don’t produce results,” said commissioner Simon Woolley.

“The commission will be looking closely at this research and will be writing to police forces with the most concerning statistics to gain a better understanding of how they are meeting their obligations under the Race Relations Act.

“We cannot rule out taking legal action against some police forces.”

The review into the powers in England and Wales, which looked into 42 policing areas over the past five years, found few forces had made any improvements to the procedure and that many had actually increased their use of stop and search against ethnic minorities.

Black people are now six times more likely, and Asians twice as likely, to be stopped and searched as white people.

The police forces with the most disproportionate use of stop and search powers against black people were Dorset, Hampshire, Leicestershire and Wandsworth.

The highest white/Asian disproportionate rates were seen in the West Midlands, Thames Valley, West Mercia and South Yorkshire.

The commission argued that where police forces improve the proportionality of their stop-and-search procedures there is a significant reduction in crime and increased public confidence in the police.

“There is little evidence to suggest that targeting black people disproportionately with stop and search powers reduces crime,” Mr Woolley said.

“In fact, this report shows evidence that police forces, like Staffordshire and Cleveland, which have used fairer stop and search tactics have not only seen reductions in crimes rates in line with overall trends, but have also increased public confidence in the police.”