Stop And Search Reforms Aim To Combat Racial Disparity

Stop and search is so alienating and damaging for police relations in London that people have started calling it "stop and scarring", a campaigner has said.

London's Metropolitan Police pledged today to sign up to a new voluntary code of conduct for all police forces on stop and search, which will see data published on all outcomes from uses of the new powers.

The police power has proved controversial for decades, in large part because black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately likely to be subject to it.

Ken Hinds, of Haringey Stop and Search Monitoring Group, said he had been stopped by officers more than 120 times in the past 30 years.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Hinds accused officers of using racial profiling: "I believe after 40 years of abuse of stop and search - we now refer to it as stop and scarred in our community - what's happened is it has alienated whole swathes of communities.

"They cleverly keep saying stop and search is used for getting knives and guns off our streets. If that's the case, why is it, out of 1.2 million stops that you have, only 6% is used to target weapons?

"Come on... we have 40 years of scarring and I'm saying you cannot expect communities affected by it to say OK."

Stop and search is one of the police's most controversial powers

He said the powers should be scrapped entirely, despite moves by the Home Secretary and police forces to increase transparency.

The changes are being brought in after the police inspectorate, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, found that 27% of stop and searches did not contain reasonable grounds for suspicion, meaning that more than 250,000 of the one million searches carried out last year could have been illegal.

In addition, black and minority ethnic (BME) members of the public were up to six times more likely to be searched than white people, the inspectorate found.

Speaking on the same programme, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, the chief executive of the College of Policing, defended the powers.

He said: "Stop and search is a really important power to protect local communities from people carrying weapons, who are carrying stolen property, from drug dealers moving their drugs about.

"But in many cases, the person stopped and searched does not have anything on them and that stop and search must be carried out with respect and courtesy.

"Then the evidence shows people will support the use of stop and search if it is well targeted and is carried out with respect."

Mr Marshall said a black man driving an expensive car would not be reasonable grounds to carry out a search - despite Mr Hinds' reports of his own experience.

Mr Marshall said the new data published under the code of conduct would help to redesign training.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the Best Use Of Stop And Search Code Of Conduct after admitting that the power had been misused in the past.

Speaking in the House of Commons when announcing the shake-up in April, Mrs May said misuse of the power damaged public trust in the police.

She said: "While it is undoubtedly an important police power, when it is misused stop and search can be counter-productive.

"First, it can be an enormous waste of police time. Second, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public. In those circumstances it is an unacceptable affront to justice."

Under the scheme, police forces who sign up voluntarily will agree to more limits on blanket Section 60 stops, used on the anticipation of serious violence without suspicion that a person is carrying weapons, while better records will be kept of each use and published online.

The Met said it was introducing those two elements of the new plan from today and comes after Section 60 searches were used as a tactic in combating violent crime at this year's Notting Hill Carnival.

Last year 47,141 arrests were made as a result of stop and search, representing 20% of total arrests by the Met, and, of the 251,161 people who were stopped and searched from August 2013 to July 2014, 115,270 (46%) were white, 72,016 (29%) were black and 34,267 (14%) were Asian. Men accounted for 94% of all searches.

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