Posted on October 22, 2007

Police: Stop and Search More Black Suspects

John Steele, London Telegraph, October 22, 2007

A black police leader has reignited controversy in one of the most sensitive areas of British policing by suggesting that more people from ethnic minorities must be stopped and searched to tackle violent crime.

Keith Jarrett, president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), disclosed that in a speech this week he will ask the Government and Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to consider increasing stop-and-searches among black people to reduce the kind of shootings which have claimed the lives of another two teenagers in the past week.

The NBPA has long raised questions about the disproportionately high number of black people stopped and searched by police.

Mr Jarrett said he would not be signalling a change in policy in a speech in Bristol this week, but was reflecting the views put to him by members of the black community

He told The Observer: “From the return that I am getting from a lot of black people, they want to stop these killings, these knife crimes, and if it means their sons and daughters are going to be inconvenienced by being stopped by the police, so be it.

“I’m hoping we go down that road. I am going to be pressing him [Sir Ian Blair] to increase stop-and-search. It’s not going to go down very well with my audience, many of whom are going to be black.

“We have talked about disproportionate use of stop-and-search in the past, but what I am proposing is quite the reverse. The black community is telling me that we have to have a look at this.”

He added: “Adult members of the community are saying to me that police need to be searching young people. When people are saying this to me, it would be remiss of me not to mention it, and that’s what I’m going to do.

“I’m talking about young people right across the board. They seem to be carrying weapons for protection, and we can disrupt that by carrying out random stop-and-search.”

However, Milena Buyum, coordinator of the National Assembly Against Racism, said stop and search “risks alienating black communities further, and is not a very effective way of catching people who are likely to commit offences.

“Stop and search is disproportionate against black people and using it more would have an adverse effect. People in these communities are desperate to stop these crimes happening, and need support to help the police.

“They should not be alienated by policing methods that have led to long-standing grievances.”

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg was also critical: “Excessive stop-and-search tactics will only increase community tensions and distrust in the police.

“Effective policing depends on good intelligence and smart ways of fostering community cooperation. This suggestion points us in exactly the opposite direction and risks repeating all the worst mistakes of the past.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties organisation Liberty, said: “Stop-and-search is just one tool of policing. If overused, or overspun, it alienates more law abiding people than it protects.”

According to figures from Scotland Yard, black people are four times more likely to be stopped than white people.