Research has shown black people in England and Wales are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.
In March, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced he was making it easier for officers to impose a section 60 order, which allows them to search anyone in any area, even without ‘reasonable suspicion’, if serious violence is anticipated.
The move was made in an attempt to tackle knife crime, and although critics argued that the power to perform a search is frequently misused, Javid defended his decision.
The police are on the frontline in the battle against serious violence and it’s vital we give them the right tools to do their jobs.
[A stop and search is a] hugely effective power when it comes to disrupting crime, taking weapons off our streets and keeping us safe.
That’s why we are making it simpler for police in areas particularly affected by serious violence to use section 60 and increasing the number of officers who can authorise the power.
However, although the rate at which prohibited items are found is broadly even across all ethnicities, analysis based on Home Office internal data revealed the huge imbalance between black and white people being stopped, The Guardian report.
The data was analysed by Liberty, a civil rights charity.
Rosalind Comyn, who works as policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said:
These statistics reveal that race disproportionality in the use of suspicion-less section 60 powers is rising at a staggering rate – statistics the government held when they decided to relax restrictions on when police can use these powers.
Empowering police to stop and search without suspicion is a recipe for discrimination, doing untold damage to communities’ trust that they will be fairly policed. It is the antithesis of properly targeted and accountable stop and search – arrest levels under section 60 are minimal.
By expanding section 60 powers, the Home Office displayed an alarming willingness to ignore evidence and embrace dangerous quick fixes in pursuit of eye-catching action on knife crime.
Cressida Dick, head of the Metropolitan police, defended stop and search last week, arguing it had reduced the murder rate in London by a quarter over the past year.
The force recorded 181,873 stops during the year to April 2019, compared with 132,127 in the previous year, and the officer explained how increasing stop and searches had helped deliver a 15 per cent drop in the number of under-25s being stabbed in London.
According to The Guardian, a Home Office spokesperson said:
Stop and search is a vital police tool when used in a targeted and fair way. We are clear that nobody should be stopped based on their race or ethnicity, and forces must ensure that officers use these intrusive powers in a way that is fair, lawful and effective.
Low numbers of searches under section 60 mean inferring figures of racial disparities from this small subsection would be misleading.
Police should not abuse their stop and search powers; a person should only be stopped for good reason.
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