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Met face battle to win community trust over stop and search

CONTROVERSIAL: Stop and search laws

THE METROPOLITAN Police face an uphill battle to win the trust of the black community over its stop and search reforms, according to a new Voice poll.

Last week, Met chief Bernard Hogan Howe ordered a radical overhaul of the policy amid concerns that the tactic is alienating the capital’s black community.

According to recent analysis from the London School of Economics and the Open Society Justice Initiative, a black person was 29.7 times more likely to be stopped and searched during the past 12 months than a white person. The figure was 26.6 times for the previous year.

In the wake of the two Stephen Lawrence murder convictions earlier this month, officers have been told to reduce the number of section 60 orders, which allow random stop and searches.

In an interview with The Voice, Chief Superintendent B. J. Harrington, one of the senior officers overseeing the changes in stop and search, appealed for the black community’s support on the issue.

He said: “Sometimes our staff are going to get it wrong, and what we want to do is where that happens we want to make sure that people know how to complain, and we will deal with the officers who don’t do what we’re asking them to do, which is to treat people with fairness and respect.”

But the call is likely to fall on deaf ears.

The Voice poll showed that mistrust of the Met Police remains high. Asked if they believed the Met’s claims that stop and search would now be fairer, 88 percent of readers said no, and just 12 percent said yes.

Kam Gill, a member of campaign group StopWatch, which monitors the impact of stop and search procedures on minority ethnic communities, told The Voice: “I would doubt that the Met are naïve to think that just by issuing a statement they can win the trust of the community. At the same time, I think it’s important that we remain vigilant that the Met does go through with these reforms.”

However, he said there were a number of things the Met Police could do to win the trust of the community.

“Amongst the positive moves they can make is look to implement projects like one in Ipswich where they’ve set up a police reference group, where officers meet with the local community and they review the stop and search forms that have been generated over the past month."

JUSTIFY

“People have an opportunity to ask the police to justify the reasons for stop and search that have been given on the forms. The fact that officers know they’ll have to justify their stops has had a significant impact on police behaviour. Disproportionate stops and searches have dropped significantly in Ipswich.”

But Claudia Webbe, chair of the Trident Independent Advisory Group, said more radical measures are needed.

“The Met just saying that they are going to review the use of section 60 is not good enough. There needs to be a total overhaul. It was meant to be a tool of last resort not something that was used on a daily basis,” she said.

Tensions caused by stop and search were highlighted in the 1999 Macpherson report, published following Sir William Macpherson’s inquiry into the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder.

But Chief Superintendent Harrington insisted that the Met had learnt lessons from the report.

He said: “We would accept there is a disproportionality between a young black man and a young white man stopped and searched in London. However, that disproportionality is in keeping with the victimisation and suspect rates in particular areas of London.

“We’ve accepted the recommendations of Macpherson. We’ve talked to a lot of people, learnt from our mistakes, and the clear message is that communities want us to use stop and search, but importantly, they want us to do it well so that people who have been stopped are left feeling like they’ve been treated with respect.”

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