Stop and search harms fight against knife crime, Met officer says

Head of black police group says resultant loss of trust within community is counterproductive

Stop and search for suspected minor drug crimes such as cannabis possession is hampering the Metropolitan police’s ability to tackle London’s knife crime epidemic by souring relationships with the public, the chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association has said.

DS Janet Hills said stopping and searching young people on suspicion of simple cannabis possession alienated potential witnesses and sources of intelligence, and created an adversarial relationship between officers and the people they are supposed to serve.

“It’s not worth the loss of trust or confidence with the community because of the huge violent crime problem we are working with,” she said. “It’s the same community that we need to give us the intelligence. It’s the same community that we need as witnesses.

“When we use stop and search in that way it absolutely impacts our ability to reach and engage with the community where it counts.”

Hills spoke after a meeting at City Hall called by the Greater London Authority to address disproportionality in policing and the justice system. It also examined how the findings and recommendations of the recent Lammy review could be implemented in the capital.

The meeting, chaired by the deputy mayor for policing, Sophie Linden, and the deputy mayor for social integration, Matthew Ryder, heard research from the mayor’s office for policing and crime showing that black and mixed-race Londoners were less likely to feel the police treated everyone fairly.

It comes after a row between the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, after Khan vowed to tackle a surge in knife crime by authorising an increase in stop and search.

Hills told the meeting that officers shunted around London to carry out intensive operations to tackle knife crime as part of the Met’s Operation Sceptre often found themselves in unfamiliar areas. “Ultimately, it’s not giving us the contact we need,” she said.

Janet Hills
Janet Hills, the president of London’s Black Police Association: ‘It absolutely impacts our ability to reach and engage with the community where it counts.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe/Guardian

“The intelligence we need to do stop and searches is key, and if we are not getting it from the communities then we are going in blind.”

Mark Blake, a Labour councillor in Haringey, said distrust and fear of the police among minority communities was rational given the difference in the treatment they received at the hands of officers compared with white people. Unlike the pupils at local comprehensives, the pupils at a private school near his home faced no contact from police, he said.

Blake also pointed to the Met’s gangs matrix, a database of alleged gang members, as evidence of the force’s overemphasis on policing the black community. Research in 2016 found 78% of the people included in the database were black.

Met officers at the meeting said they were ready to listen to community concerns. However, Mahamed Hashi, a Lambeth youth worker and chair of the borough’s stop and search monitoring group, said the problem was not with those at the top. “At a certain level there’s really good engagement,” Hashi said. “But the problem is that doesn’t filter down to the officers on the ground.”


Damien Gayle

The GuardianTramp

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