Communities afflicted by violence need care, not criminalisation. But our new Prime Minister is more interested in playing to bigoted populist sentiments than in supporting BAME citizensby Zainab Asunramu / August 2, 2019 / Leave a comment
Black, Asian, and ethnic minority people “are suffering not from the overuse of stop-and-search… but from the potential underuse of it.” Those are the words of the Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, during a Westminster Hall debate on stop and search operations during my second week as a parliamentary assistant last May. He went on to say “when it comes to the most serious offence of all—murder—it is clear that black people, and in particular black males, are far more likely to be victims. They are also more likely to be murderers.” He currently sits on the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
I am reminded of this debate a year on, when not 24 hours after being handed the keys to Number 10, Boris Johnson announced he would relax stop and search restrictions for police officers, allowing them to search any person in the street if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect they are carrying illegal or stolen property.
His decision comes after former Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s controversial move to expand the police powers last year. Research showed that black people were “40 times” more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in England and Wales. Recent analysis from the Guardian illustrated that for the majority of black people stopped showed no evidence of wrongdoing.
Evidence that increasing stop and search can inhibit violent crime is questionable. A report by the College of Policing on whether increased levels of stop and search prevents crime concludes that increased powers were only “occasionally followed by very slightly lower rates of crime,” while noting that these correlations were “inconsistent” and “weak.”
So why would our new Prime Minister, already known for his history of racist comments, choose to relax restrictions around stop and search as one of his very first measures?
A criminal law barrister told me that Johnson’s decision was a case of “political grandstanding,” urging the prime minister to instead “engage with the communities most affected by violent crime to identify viable solutions for dealing with this [youth violence] crisis.”
“Stop and search,” she added, “does little in the way of detecting real crime.” The environment of mistrust caused by stop and search harms communities. In…