Annually the House Workplace publishes information on cease and search from all 43 police forces in England and Wales. The newest figures for the 12 months ending March 2021 reveal a well-known sample: cease and search disproportionately impacts black individuals and targets medicine, not severe violence.
The figures come as the federal government plans to introduce additional stop-and-search powers as a part of the police crime sentencing and courts invoice within the type of severe violence discount orders. Campaigners have warned that the invoice will deepen racial inequality within the prison justice system.
There have been 695,009 stops and searches between April 1 2020 and March 31 2021, a rise of 24% from the earlier 12 months. This was pushed by a 36% improve in searches for suspected drug possession (69% of all cease and search). Whereas the present political focus is on the flexibility of cease and search to cut back knife crime, it’s evident that medicine stay the dominant grounds for searches. Black individuals have been seven occasions extra prone to be looked for drug offences than white individuals, although black persons are no extra possible to make use of medicine. Quite than being indicative of elevated drug crime or drug use, will increase in cease and searches for drug possession possible mirror inequalities in cease and search practices.
Nearly all of stops and searches yield no outcomes, with 77% previously 12 months leading to no additional police motion. The newest figures report that offensive weapons have been present in just one in 50 cease and searches over the previous 12 months. The proportion of searches for offensive weapons decreased within the newest 12 months and accounted for less than 12% of searches. Whereas the federal government and police forces proceed to justify the usage of cease and search as a way to disrupt knife crime and violence, these figures spotlight that broader police powers are an ineffective strategy.
Racial disproportionality in cease and search has been reported yearly since data started in 2007. For the 12 months ending March 2021, black individuals have been seven occasions extra prone to be searched than white individuals for searches beneath the Police and Prison Proof Act and related laws (essentially the most ceaselessly used stop-and-search powers). This was a slight lower from the earlier 12 months, when black individuals have been 9 occasions extra prone to be searched.
Nevertheless, on nearer examination, the lower in disproportionality this previous 12 months was as a result of a rise within the variety of white individuals searched, not a lower within the variety of black individuals searched. In 2019-20 there have been six stops of white individuals per 1,000, which elevated to eight stops per 1,000 inhabitants in 2020-21. In 2019-20 and 2020-21, black individuals have been stopped and searched at a price of 54 stops per 1,000 individuals.
Black individuals have been stopped and searched at the next price than white individuals by each drive in England and Wales in the latest 12 months, although there may be vital variation between completely different police drive areas. For instance, the speed at which black individuals have been searched in comparison with white individuals various from 1.8 occasions extra in Merseyside to 19.5 in Dorset.
The explanations for this disproportionality are entrenched and sophisticated, stemming from implicit and institutional biases and wider structural inequalities skilled by minority teams. Whereas makes an attempt to grasp disproportionality by means of completely different analytical instruments is essential, proof that the usage of cease and search has broken belief within the police amongst black and ethnic minority communities is obvious.
The newest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales present that the proportion of black individuals who have faith in police has been dropping since 2017-18. In 2019-20, 64% of black individuals reported having confidence of their native police (76% in 2017-18) in comparison with 74% of white individuals.
Rethinking cease and search
The acknowledged legislative goal of stop-and-search powers is investigative – to verify or allay suspicions that an offence has taken place (carrying an unlawful merchandise) or is about to happen (carrying gear to conduct a housebreaking). The police, involved with imposing the legislation and selling public security, consider the widespread use of the tactic is justified if they can detect even a small variety of offences, and preserve that their presence and the “risk” of cease and search use is profitable in deterring crime. From this angle, any stop-and-search encounter might be justified as both detecting crime or deterring additional crime. But, there may be restricted proof to recommend that is profitable.
New laws, by means of the police crime sentencing and courts invoice, will grant police extra powers to make use of cease and search to focus on severe violence – a technique we all know will possible impression black and ethnic minority teams. This has ramifications for belief and cooperation with the police, impacting prison justice outcomes and exacerbating the variety of black and minority ethnic individuals within the prison justice system.
The will increase in cease and search throughout 2020-21 proceed to yield the identical outcomes as years previous – focusing on black individuals and primarily ensuing within the detection of low-level drug possession offences. These findings recommend that police forces throughout England and Wales ought to search to cut back the usage of cease and search, and to rethink its utility in focusing on low-level drug offences.
Amal receives funding from the Financial and Social Analysis Council.
Bisola Akintoye and Winifred Agnew-Pauley don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.