Police target black youths

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The Independent Online
YOUNG PEOPLE from ethnic minority backgrounds still make up a disproportionate number of those stopped and searched on the streets, according to independent research published yesterday.

The report showed that a police pilot scheme, which began last year, raised arrest rates from 11 per cent to 18 per cent over 12 months. In four out of seven sites being tested in London, people from black and Asian backgrounds were more likely to be apprehended.

But Scotland Yard maintained that the new scheme has led to a fairer system. The Metropolitan Police stressed that those planning searches were made fully aware of demographic trends and the need to avoid stereotyping. Partly as a result of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, stop and search operations had dropped despite an increase in street crimes.

Assistant Commissioner Denis O'Connor said: "The Metropolitan Police believes these powers are an essential tool for community safety, but it is determined to renew the tactic in ways which meet current needs and expectations. The public also needs to feel confident that we are exercising them both effectively and fairly on their behalf."

Asked if the figures showed there was still a problem with institutionalised racism in the Met, Mr O'Connor said: "I think if a public institution is not working to win consent and understanding in using powers, especially intrusive powers like this, then that's an accusation that can be made.

"But I think the Metropolitan Police are actively working to see that the proper safeguards are being applied in the use of this power and that therefore, as an institution, is walking in the right direction."

Mr O'Connor said "apprehension over accusations of racism" was one of the factors responsible for the drop in stop and searches since the Law-rence inquiry report.

Leading article, Review, page 3