A disparity in the number of black people in London against whom police use force suggests “systemic racial discrimination” by officers, an expert has said.
The Metropolitan Police has published data showing its use of force for the first time.
Between April and July, 36% of the 12,605 people subjected to police force were black. Black people are around 13% of London’s population.
Dr Zubaida Haque, a research associate at race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust, told HuffPost UK the disparity was down to unconscious racial bias by officers, cuts to police numbers and training and a lack of black and minority ethnic officers.
“The disproportionality suggests there’s systemic racial discrimination or bias,” she said.
“It doesn’t always have to be overt... You and I have biases. We all have unconscious biases but in our jobs, it’s not the difference between life and death.”
She said these biases could lead white officers to looking at “young black men and automatically assume there’s going to violence and resistance, assume they’re guilty and automatically react with disproportionate use of excessive force”.
Dr Haque added the lack of black officers was also an issue. Black people were more likely to have “peer understanding” with an officer of the same race and less likely to think “oh, this black officer automatically suspects me”, she added.
The Met’s latest statistics show 86% of its officers are white, compared with 59% of London.
Dr Haque added there was a parallel in racial disparity in the police use of force and prison officers’ use of force on inmates. She said cuts in prisons had led to an increase in use of force.
She added that cuts to training and the number of senior, more experienced officers could deprive the force of knowledge on how to de-escalate situations.
The figures, published on Tuesday, also showed 16% of those subjected to police force were Asian or of Asian descent.
Fewer than half - 45% - of them were white.
Commander Matt Twist, who leads the Met’s response to restraint and self-defence, said publishing the data was a “positive step” and it would now do so every three months.
He added: “Our officers face the most dangerous situations every day. It is important we give them the right training and equipment to do the job.
“Use of force techniques are there to stop violence and danger, protecting not only the officer making an arrest but also the public at the scene, and the person being arrested.”
The force did not comment specifically on the racial disparity.