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Stop and search disparities for minorities continue to threaten public trust in police

Stop and search disparities for minorities continue to threaten public trust in police

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday December 13 2017

The Independent discusses a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICFRS) which concludes that the disproportionate use of stop and search powers on ethnic minorities continues to threaten the public’s trust and confidence in the police.

HMICFRS, assessing the legitimacy of policing across the 43 police forces in England and Wales, found that black people are at least eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, with this disparity increasing since 2012.

The Police legitimacy 2017 report indicated that almost 300,000 stop and searches were carried out by police forces between April 2016 and March 2017. HMICFRS assessed 8,600 stop and search records from forces, finding sufficient “reasonable grounds” for the stops in 94% of cases, with the object of the search, such as drugs, weapons or stolen goods being found in 24% of stops.

Over 60% of the records assessed related to searches for drugs, with figures showing that drug searches were less likely to be successful on black people (26%) than white people (33%). HMICFRS described the disparity as “troubling”, saying “that the use of stop and search on black people might be based on weaker grounds for suspicion than its use on white people, particularly in respect of drugs”.

HMICFRS highlighted inconsistencies in the way police forces record ethnicity, with certain forces not recording the ethnicity of stops in 31% of cases. HMICFRS recommended that police forces record both self-defined ethnicity and officer-defined ethnicity of those stopped, explaining that current recording practices could obscure an even greater gulf between BAME and white people than figures currently published indicate.

Whilst all police forces are required to set up external scrutiny arrangements, such as independent advisory groups (IAGs), on their use of stop and search, HMIC expressed their disappointment that a number of forces implemented arrangements “that do not sufficiently represent the diversity of their local communities, including a lack of young people or other groups who are likely to have lower levels of confidence in the police”.

In response to its concerns that forces could not explain the over-representation of stop and search of BAME people, the inspectorate recommended that by July 2018 all forces carry out research and analysis on disparities found and ensure all officers with stop and search powers are provided with unconscious bias training.

Adrian Hanstock, NPCC Lead for Stop and Search, stated that forces had made “good progress” on using stop and search powers fairly, but focused on the rollout of body worn cameras as a tool to enable further scrutiny of police behaviour.

Deputy Chief Constable Hanstock said, “I am confident that the ongoing rollout of body worn video across forces will further enable chief officers to assess the circumstances leading to a stop and search, provide balanced explanations to local communities and make stop and search more transparent.”

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