Police six times more likely to stop black people

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THE FREQUENCY with which black people are stopped and searched by the police - already disproportionate - is getting worse, despite the criticisms made by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

The Home Office has published statistics showing that black people are now six times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites, which appears to contradict recent claims that police officers have become reluctant to stop black suspects for fear of being accused of racism.

Some police forces are 10 times more likely to stop a black person than a white, with up to one in three members of the black population in some areas searched every year.

Paul Cavadino, director of policy at the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, described the findings as disturbing.

"No sensible person can claim that the racially biased use of stop-and- search powers helps to cut crime," he said.

"In the long run it could well have the reverse effect, by alienating young black people further from the police and the criminal justice process."

Last year's race and criminal justice statistics revealed that blacks were five times more likely than whites to be stopped. Yesterday's report showed the imbalance had increased, even though it covers the time of the inquiry into the killing of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The Home Office report states: "For the majority of police forces, it was apparent that the number of stops and searches relative to the resident population was consistently higher for black people than for white people."

Police made just over one million stops and searches under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act during 1998-99, with 9 per cent of the suspects black and 5 per cent Asian. Black people comprise 2 per cent of the national population and Asians 3 per cent. Most white people were stopped and searched on suspicion of possessing stolen property; most blacks and Asians were suspected of carrying drugs.