David Lammy criticises Sadiq Khan over vow to increase stop and search

Tottenham MP says London mayor is using the controversial tactic as ‘a political football’ in crackdown on knife crime

David Lammy has rebuked Sadiq Khan after the London mayor vowed to respond to a spate of stabbings in the city with a “significant” increase in the use of stop and search.

The MP for Tottenham said he was disappointed that his Labour colleague in City Hall had chosen to use the controversial police tactic as a “political football” after an outcry over the fatal stabbings of four young men on New Year’s Eve.

Black people in England and Wales are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Lammy said the frequency with which young black men were searched left many feeling “as though they are living in a police state” and drained their trust in the justice system.

“I am disappointed that the vexed issue of stop and search is again being used as a political football, and I have made my views clear to the mayor of London,” he said.

“We cannot continue to have different policing for different communities – it is inherently unfair – and the latest figures, published last October, show that the racial disproportionality in terms of who is being stopped and searched is actually getting worse.”

Lammy, who chaired a government review of the treatment of racial minority groups in the criminal justice system, said that the disproportionality he found began with the use of the tactic.

“As we speak, there will be a young, white, middle-class man smoking a joint with impunity at a campus university, and the police will be nowhere in sight. But a young black or Muslim man walking through Brixton or on Tottenham High Road will be stopped and searched, and end up with a criminal record that blights their life chances for ever.”

Lammy’s intervention came after Khan used an Evening Standard op-ed addressing the spike in violence in the capital to promise a “tougher crackdown” against violent crime. “This will include a significant increase in the use of targeted stop and search by the police across our city,” Khan wrote.

Community campaigners accused Khan of a political betrayal. Rebekah Delsol, the director of StopWatch, pointed to research by the Home Office that found the use of large “surge” stop-and-search operations was ineffective at reducing crime.

“For Sadiq, I think it’s political, I think he hasn’t got an answer,” she said. “Although I think his knife crime strategy wasn’t bad, he got called out on it and so, rather than [holding his] nerve, it’s just a populist response to being called out.”

Stafford Scott, of The Monitoring Group, a civil rights charity, said his daughter’s friend had on Friday been murdered outside his house. “No stop and search would have stopped that stabbing from happening,” he said.

He added: “Sadiq Khan, typical politician: he told us one thing before he was elected, got our vote, and has gone in there and – without even engaging with us around the issues – has gone down the toughening-policing line.”

Previous tactics had failed because police had wrongly focused on the notion of gangs, Scott said. “They are not addressing the social, economic drivers that create an environment where young people feel they have to sort out their issues at the end of a knife. Our young kids are paying the price of austerity.”

A spokesman for Khan said the mayor and the Met were determined to step up the fight against violent crime and that would include an increase in “intelligence-led and targeted” stop and search.

The mayor was aware of the hostility and tensions that could arise from the use of the tactic “when done badly”, he said; but the rollout of body-worn video would ensure that police were held to account for their use of stop and search powers.

“The mayor knows that stop and search alone won’t rid our streets of the scourge of knives,” he said. “It is going to need everyone stepping up to the plate, with a comprehensive public health approach to tackling this.”


Damien Gayle

The GuardianTramp

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