Black people nine times more likely to face stop and search than white people

Figures for England and Wales show police use of powers at their highest for six years

Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people, official figures for England and Wales show.

The figures for 2019-20 come after protests and allegations of racial profiling by police, with claims that trust and confidence in police are under serious strain.

Liberty said the figures showed “increasing state harassment” of black people that would make little or no difference in tackling serious crime.

A total of 577,054 stops were carried out across England in 2019-20, with 76% leading to no further action. Stops where an officer requires reasonable suspicion rose by 53% from the previous year, to 558,973.

Stops under section 60, where no reasonable suspicion is required, rose by 35% to 18,081, with 4% leading to an arrest.

Black people were 18 times more likely to be stopped under section 60, according to an analysis of the official figures by the Liberal Democrats.

The use of stop and search powers was at its highest for six years, following a call from the government to deploy the tactic more to try to reduce violent crime.

The data shows that in 63% of cases the most common reason given for justifying a stop was drugs. The next most common reason was weapons, at 16%.

The Home Office, which released the figures, said the increases were driven by the Metropolitan police’s greater use of stop and search in London last year. The capital’s police force carried out almost half of all stops and while 10 stops were carried out per 1,000 of population across England and Wales, in London the figure was three times that.

The Home Office said this high rate, coupled with the fact that the London population has a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people (40%) compared with the rest of England and Wales (10%), meant the London figures skewed the national figures for racial disproportionality.

The figures also show that while black people were 8.9 times more likely to be stopped than white people, for all BAME people that figure was 4.1 times higher than for white people, down slightly from 4.3 in 2018-19.

Police say disproportionality does not necessarily show a racial bias. Campaigners disagree, and expressed concern that the disproportionality has failed to improve.

In a commentary accompanying the statistics, the Home Office noted that disproportionality rates had risen in the last 10 years: “Between 2011-12 and 2014-15 the disparity generally reduced (going from six to four times higher respectively). However, it started to rise from 2015-16, reaching a peak in the previous two years, with the rate around 9.5 times higher for those identifying as black or black British compared to those who identify as white). In the latest year the disparity rate fell, decreasing to 8.9 times higher.”

Stops increased in 40 out of the 43 forces across England and Wales, with the Met accounting for 50% of that rise.

Data for arrests shows that black people were more than three times more likely to be detained than white people, and BAME people more than one and a half times more likely.

Katrina French, of StopWatch, said: “It is disappointing to see these extreme racial disparities in the rates of stop and search, year after year.

“It is clear that the accountability mechanisms we have in place – the complaints procedure and local scrutiny panels – are not substantial enough to address this injustice. StopWatch calls for primary legislation to ensure that stop and search powers are used fairly, effectively and proportionately.”

Rosalind Comyn, of Liberty, said: “The government should prioritise strategies for community safety that address the root causes of violence and reduce the need for police interventions, rather than increasing state harassment of people.

“The government admits there is no proof that ramping up stop and search makes our communities safer. Yet despite this, and in the face of wide racial disparities, use of stop and search is still rising, and the government is currently pushing forward plans to expand it further. This comes in spite of repeat warnings about the damage this power does to people and communities.”


Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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