Right of Reply: Denis O'Connor

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Yesterday, a leading article criticised police use of `stop and search' procedures. Here, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police responds to the argument

BEFORE WE scrap "stop and search", let's allow all of the facts to get in the way. The difficulty with stop and search is that people take fixed positions, without understanding the dynamic of the streets. Yesterday's leader in The Independent about the tactic is an example of that.

The obligation of public institutions, especially powerful ones such as the police service, is to "millennium-proof" themselves around not just racism, but all human rights issues. We must have processes to examine our use of discretionary powers so that we exercise safeguards and make results of our progress available to the public.

The interim report by the researcher Marian Fitzgerald on stop-and-search procedures shows that stop and search makes a useful contribution to public safety, and that its use can be made more intelligent. And, for the first time, it throws some light on the core concerns about its disproportionate use against ethnic minorities.

Now for some facts. Stop and search accounts for 10 per cent of all arrests, including 67 per cent of all drug arrests, 95 per cent of all arrests for going equipped to steal and significant numbers for street crime and burglary.

In London the search ratio of black to white people is 4.5 to 1. At the seven sites in our pilot project, this ratio is reduced to 3 to 1. Among people aged from 13 to 23, the search ratio of Asians to whites is 1.4 to 1 and the ratio of blacks to whites is 2.8 to 1.

At least 25 per cent of those searched do not live in the area in which they were stopped, and in some areas this is as high as 62 per cent. In other words, the street population is different from the resident population.

Marian Fitzgerald's full report is due in October - watch this space! Meanwhile the interim report is available on www.met.police.uk