Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Racist Stop & Search Powers

Over the last few months there has been a number of high profile cases where the UK police have been accused of stopping prominent black Britons without proper justification. Among the individuals stopped have been a Member of Parliament, an ex-member of the British Athletics team, an ex-Premier League footballer and even a serving black police officer.

Under current UK law the police can stop a member of public at any time. If the incident is not a 'stop and search' then a stopped person is free to leave at any time. However if a police officer has 'reasonable grounds' to suspect the individual has been involved in a crime or that they are in possession of a prohibited item they can search them. Being able to stop anyone at will and to only have 'reasonable grounds' to search someone means that the police have no real burden of proof when stopping and searching individuals. A growing body of evidence suggests that many police officer use racial profiling when deciding who to stop & search. We can see evidence of that in a new interactive map of London stop and search incidents.

Metropolitan Police Stop and Search data for June 2020 is an interactive map of all stop and search incidents carried out in London in June of this year. Black people are 13.32% of the total London population. However 35.16% of June Stop and Search incidents involved black citizens. White people make up 59.79% of London's total population. 30.38% of stop and search incidents in June were of white people. Asian people make up 18.49% of the London population. Asian citizens make up 17.48% of June stop and search incidents. The evidence seems to be that black Londoner's are proportionally far more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white or Asian Londoners.

Just this morning I heard someone on local radio in London arguing that the police are justified in stopping and search black citizens because black people are more involved in crime. One look at the Metropolitan Police Stop and Search data for June 2020 interactive map disproves that idea. The map shows that just 9.57% of white people were arrested after being searched and only 9.59% of black people searched were subsequently arrested. So although a black Londoner is far more likely to be stopped and searched than a white Londoner a black person is no more likely to be arrested for having carried out an actual crime than a white person.

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