A collective of sixteen organisations has launched a campaign against current stop and search policy. by Danny Reilly
The groups have sent an open letter to Home Office ministers Theresa May and Nick Herbert, and Bernard Hogan-Howe (the present Commissioner of the Metropolitan police). It highlights the racially discriminatory character of the implementation of recent stop and search legislation, particularly Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) which allows police to stop and search without reasonable suspicion. The negative impact on young people of these police powers to stop and search, without even the safeguard of reasonable suspicion, compounds their ineffectiveness. The collective points out that current discriminatory use of stop and search powers requires corrective steps to be taken, as required by Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. The forthcoming Association of Chief Police Officers ‘Best Practice’ review of stop and search hardly fits the bill, and the collective calls for community scrutiny of this police review process. The letter asks that the Metropolitan police reveal details of a forthcoming stop and search policy, ‘Stop It’, and initiate a consultation with communities on changes to stop and search, which these organisations see as necessary for community safety.
Read the letter in full below:
‘We are a collective of organisations that believe police stop-and-search tactics are damaging the relationship between young people and society. We are calling for the police to change their approach.
Our work with young people, and in-depth research into last summer’s riots, shows that stop-and-search was a key causal factor in the violence that swept the country.
The Metropolitan Police will soon release figures to demonstrate a reduction in the number of stop and searches conducted as well as an improvement in effectiveness. Disproportionality will also be shown to have reduced.
We acknowledge these developments but believe this is still not enough. Young people remain angry about stop-and-search – they believe that it continues to be a discriminatory and dehumanising imposition. Some feel that if they are to be treated as suspects, they may as well commit crime.
We believe that stop-and-search is the embodiment of the negative relationships young people have with the police. It is often carried out with little reason given and makes no differentiation between criminal and victim. Between you, you three have the power to change this.
We are calling on you to take steps to further reduce the use of stop-and-search with young people, to increase effectiveness of stop-and-search and to reduce disproportionality in stop and search. Specifically we are asking for:
- The suspension of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) which allows officers to stop and search young people without even the safeguard of reasonable suspicion.
- Interested parties: civil liberties groups and community organisations to scrutinise and comment on ACPO’s forth coming review of “Best Practice” in the use of Stop and Search. We are sceptical that a review of best practice is sufficient to deal with the gravity of the issues at hand, and communities must be allowed the chance to read it and deliver their verdict.
- The Metropolitan police to reveal the details of their forthcoming stop and search policy “STOP-IT” and allow space for consultation with communities. If stop and search is ever to be a positive force for community safety communities must support it. This will not happen if they feel it is simply imposed upon them from above.
We make this call for three good reasons:
- Stop and search is not effective. Only 1/10 stops under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence act (1984) results in an arrest, and 0.4% of stops under Section 60 result in an arrest for a dangerous weapon. Yet we know that negative interactions with the police destroy trust and make young people more likely to resent police. For every knife Section 60 takes off the streets many more young people lose their trust in the police and turn to weapons to make them feel safer.
- Police and community relationships are better without it. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission report Stop and Think report highlighted that when stop-and-search was reduced in Staffordshire and Cleveland crime levels also dropped and public confidence in the police increased.
- It is discriminatory. Black people are 37 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched under Section 60 by police in England and Wales. Black and Asian people are more likely to be stopped across all forms of stop and search than white people.
In relation to this last reason based on discrimination you are required to take corrective steps if you are to comply with your obligation to have due regard to the three equality aims in Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
Young people have a right to be on the street, unchallenged, unless there is good cause to believe they are involved in crime. Please support us in asking the police service to reduce the use of stop-and-search and to improve their relationships with young people.
Sign up to the campaign for better and fairer engagement between the police and young people athttp://www.stopandtalk.co.