Everyone is familiar with term stop & search, however. There is a disproportionate use of police powers on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, yet police forces cannot explain why a report has found.
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The Police Service Inspectorate Report
The Police Service Inspectorate (HMICFRS) recently published a report on the use of police powers on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, including stop and search powers and the use of force. The 2019/20 data found that:
- Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people were over four times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people; for Black people specifically, this was almost nine times more likely. In some forces, the likelihood was much higher.
- Black people were 18 times more likely than white people to be searched under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
- Black people were about 5.7 times more likely to have force used on them than White people.
- Officers were more than nine times as likely to have drawn Tasers (but not discharged them) on Black people than on White people.
- Black people were eight times more likely to be ‘compliant handcuffed’ than White people and over three times more likely to have a spit and bite guard used on them than White people.
This might not be the whole picture, as a failure to record ethnicity data in an increasing proportion of records is hiding the true disproportionality rate.
Drug possession – stop and search
The HMICFRS found that the most common reason given for the use of these powers is suspected drug possession. However, drugs are only found in about a quarter of self-generated, possession-only drug searches. This indicates that stop and search are not always being targeted at serious, high-priority offences.
Furthermore, drug searches on Black people, and particularly possession-only drug searches, had a higher rate of weak recorded grounds than equivalent searches on White people. Also, fewer drug searches of Black people resulted in drugs being found.
The report says that 35 years after the introduction of stop and search legislation, police forces still cannot explain why these powers are used disproportionately based on ethnicity. Now, the inspectorate is calling on police leaders to consider whether tackling drug possession via the use of stop and search powers is effective.
The report added that police forces must analyse their data and explain, with evidence, the reasons why increased numbers of BAME people are subject to stop and search/the use of force. If there is no valid explanation, then police forces must take clear action to address this discrimination. Otherwise, they risk losing the trust of the communities they serve.
The use of powers must be “fair, lawful and appropriate”
HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:
“The tragic killing of George Floyd in America in early 2020, and subsequent protests in the UK and globally, have highlighted once again the significant impact that police interaction can have – particularly on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, communities.
The public rightly expects the police to protect them by using their powers in an effective and fair manner. Unfair use of powers can be counter-productive if it leads people to think it is acceptable to not comply with the law. It may also make people unwilling to report when they are the victim of a crime or come forward as witnesses.
Police forces must analyse their data and either explain, with evidence, the reasons for disproportionality or take clear action to address it. The police must be able to show the public that their use of these powers is fair, lawful and appropriate, or they risk losing the trust of the communities they serve.
We know that the proportion of stop and searches that actually find drugs is very low, and the disproportionate use of these powers on BAME people is having a damaging impact on public trust.
We are therefore calling on police leaders to consider if focusing stop and search on drugs possession is an effective use of these powers, and to better explain the reasons for disproportionality. It is clear that now is the time to have an evidence-based national debate.”
Criminal defence solicitors – we can help
Where our clients are stopped, searched and arrested, we carefully scrutinise the actions taken by the police. If there is any deviation from the law, we will apply to have evidence excluded, charges dismissed or will argue abuse of process in court. Can the police search my house.
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