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Bad stop and search tactics alienating young people

LONG-RUNNING FRUSTRATION: An iconic picture taken during the 1981 Brixton riots sparked by heavy-handed ‘sus’ laws

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE renewed calls for a temporary ban on stop and search powers following a report from City Hall’s police and crime committee which highlighted that the measure was yielding little result and proper records were not being kept.

The London Assembly report, published on February 6, praised the Met’s recent success in cutting the number of searches by a third, while nearly doubling the arrest rate resulting from stops. But it raised concerns about the ‘variable’ quality of searches and inconsistent record keeping, with some contact going unrecorded.

The report further said that a sustained effort to improve the quality as well as reduce the quantity of the Met’s use of stop and search is needed if community relations are to be bolstered and police effectiveness is to be improved long-term.

The Met however, has stressed that its own reforms are yielding results in improving the use of stop and search. 


But campaigner Adam Elliott-Cooper, who runs workshops for young people about their rights during encounters with the police, said he did not trust the figures. “Stop and search figures are particularly easy to change because, as this report admits, searches aren’t being recorded.”

He added: “I have worked with young people who have been told if they want a receipt for a stop and search they have to come down to the station to collect it which, as you could imagine, is an offer they often decline.” 

Activist Kojo Kyerewaa, from the London Campaign Against Police & State Violence (LCAPSV), is demanding drastic action. He said: “Just like the sus laws of the 1970s and 80s, this power is still being used to justify racist stereotypes. We need at the very least, a moratorium on this power, because it is allowing bullying on an industrial scale, and usually is the pretext for unnecessary police violence.”

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Stopwatch campaigner Natasha Dhumma

Assembley member Jenny Jones, who chaired the committee’s investigation, said she is concerned that 800 people a day are still being searched by the Met with no resulting arrest.

“You have to ask if this is a good use of police time and resources,” the Green Party politician said. “If those stops are made without good reason, and just as importantly if they are conducted without common courtesy, that’s 800 Londoners, plus their friends and families, with a potential grievance against the police.”

Jones added: “The Met cannot afford to alienate another generation of young people by officers’ heavy handed use of their powers. The leadership at Scotland Yard appears to understand that, now they have to convince every one of their officers to put that into practice.”

The Met said it welcomed the police and crime committee’s report. A spokesperson for the Met said: “The report highlights the work the Metropolitan Police Service has already undertaken to ensure that stop and search is used more effectively.

“The report makes a number of recommendations that will help us to build on this work, particularly in relation to improving the quality of the stop and search encounter, which is a key element to building public trust in the use of the powers.”

Natasha Dhumma, youth coordinator at civil rights group StopWatch, further highlighted that “many Londoners, especially young people, continue to have negative and humiliating encounters with the police and abstract statistics will provide little comfort to them, especially when so many stop and searches remain wholly unaccounted for, as is highlighted in the report.

“Any reduction in the number of searches must be teamed with a significant reduction in ethnic disproportionality if the Met genuinely seeks to earn trust and build good relations with those communities most impacted. Fairness is fundamental to improving the quality of the encounter.”

In some areas, black people are up to 29 times more likely to be stopped and searched, and 40 per cent of those stopped in London are young people.

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