UK

Stop And Search 'Down 90%' But Communities Still Feel Victimised, Report Finds

06/02/2014 06:33 GMT | Updated 06/02/2014 06:59 GMT

Stop and search in Lodnon has declined dramatically in recent years, but disaffected communities still believe the police ride roughshod over their rights, and will take a long time to be persuaded that tactics have changed, a new report has said.

Stop and search has reduced by over 40% in just two years, and arrest rates have improved, to around 15% during 2013, according to a London Assembly report published on Thursday.

This compares to 9% in the year before 'StopIt' was introduced in January 2012, a drive by the Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe to halt unnecessary stop and search.

The report also found a dramatic 90% reduction in stop and searches conducted under controversial Section 60 legislation, which allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion.

Critics have long argued that the low arrest rate means stop and search not only creates community anger, but are a waste of police time that could be used more effectively.

The wounding of communities unjustly and repeatedly targeted for stop and search will take longer than two years to heal. The research found that many young Londoners were not yet prepared to accept that the policy had changed, especially given the killing of Tottenham's Mark Duggan in 2011 by police officers.

“Having worked around stop and search nationally for the last 10 or 15 years, I was having examples quoted to me from before I joined the police service. This is a long memory of things that we have got wrong and it is not going to go away overnight," said Craig Mackey, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Some of those surveyed for the report said they found some of the statistics difficult to believe.

“What some of the young people are saying is that the police officers are not filling in slips. When they get a negative stop they do not fill in their slips and when they get a positive stop they do… it is an explanation of why the stops have gone down and why the positive stop rates have gone up," said Lewisham councillor Duwayne Brooks.

The report found that, over the course of a year, the Met carries out over 320,000 stop and searches, which equates to at least 35 Londoners every hour. A further 375,000 people are asked to stop and account for their actions.

"When the police get it wrong, it adds to the resentment and mistrust that some communities have of the Met, impacting badly on community relations," said AM Jenny Jones, chair of the Stop and Search working group.

"This has consequences for every Londoner as it will affect the public’s willingness to talk to the police and cooperate with investigations.

"Our investigation, like many before us, found that the rights protecting Londoners are routinely ignored by some officers.

"Londoners also need to have confidence that the police are being properly held to account for their use of these powers. More needs to be done to ensure this is the case, and that role largely falls to the Mayor’s Office, which should be systematically sampling the Met’s stop and search records.

"Leaders must keep up the pressure and the Mayor should lead the way in setting out the standards that Londoners can expect."

"This report raises an important issue: the perception of stop and search is arguably as important as the reality," said Mike Bonnet, policy and communications officer at the Office of Public Management, who contributed to the report.

"Improvements can be undermined if they are not communicated to, or believed by, the members of the public most likely to be stopped and searched."

The consultation link was tweeted over 640,000 times and received thousands of responses, according to OPM, which it said showed that "efforts have been made" to connect with young people.

"Telling people you have done better, even backing it up with figures, isn’t a ‘magic bullet’ for improving their perceptions and relationships with the police," Bonnet said.

In July last year, a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found young black and minority ethnic males were still seven times more likely to be stopped than whites.