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Examining stop and search

Tense: cast members Jerome Holder and Renee Castle, and inset writer Dominic Taylor

IT’S A damning statistic that black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.

And according to Dominic Taylor, being unduly stopped and searched by the police will one day have the same consequences as child abuse at the hands of priests.

That is why the former senior Ministry of Justice official has chosen to criticise the controversial issue in his new play, aptly titled Stop Search. The writer, former EastEnders actor and ex-prison officer believes that the controversial police procedure is not only a waste of time, but is also damaging young black children.

“There is something heartbreaking going on that is hurting children,” said the 44-year-old. “And I think that one day stop and search will be seen on the same level as the scandal of clergy abuse. You’ve got strangers putting their hands on children, frisking them, sometimes putting guns in their faces and forcing them against walls.”

As well as being physically intrusive, many people who have been unjustifiably searched by the police will tell you that it is also highly embarrassing.

“It’s shaming; these kids are looked at by the public as if they have done something wrong,” says the father of two. “They are humiliated. They try to style it out but they have feelings and that has an effect. From a human point of view it’s wrong, but from a policing point of view it’s a waste of time.”

In his drama, the playwright examines the impact that police stop and searches have on the lives of youngsters, specifically 13-year-old Callie who goes missing one night, to the horror of his successful parents who must find their son.

“In my play, I wanted to say, ‘this is what I know, how can we change it?’ Maybe people will gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to be a human being and be targeted everyday for no good reason.”


Brush with the law: actors Aleksandar Aleksiev (left) and Valentine Hanson

As a middle-aged white man, Taylor believes his ethnicity is the reason he has never been stopped and searched.

“I was into the stuff that my peers were into, but I knew that if I presented myself a certain way, [because of my race], I would probably be able to avoid attention, whereas friends of mine couldn’t.”

In his 30s, Taylor gave up the life of an actor to become a prison officer in Brixton. Becoming the race equality officer for the prison Taylor came face to face with the issue of institutionalized racism.

“There is a deep denial with people in authority; if they are called racist they become deeply defensive. They are almost half blind and so overcome by their sense of victim-hood, they stop listening and think that you are attacking them as human beings.”

Acknowledging that policing is a difficult job, which he actually admires, the writer does not think that the force can govern themselves or change the institution alone.

“We cannot allow the police to try and get rid of racism by themselves.

“I respect police officers; I had to walk the walk and I know what it’s like to have to police people. If you see the play, we ask the questions: ‘Why do human being acts like this?’ And ‘how does this happen?’”

Stop Search is at the Broadway Theatre, Rushey Green, London SE6 until May 26. For tickets call 020 8690 0002 or visit www.broadwaytheatre.org.uk

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