Blacks 'not joining identity parades'

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BECAUSE of a shortage of willing local black participants, police officers from as far away as Liverpool and Nottingham are regularly asking members of Birmingham's black community to form identity parades.

The officers, from predominantly white city and rural areas, are frequently transporting witnesses and suspects many miles to Birmingham police stations. Suspects are then presented among a line of black volunteers from Birmingham.

Under the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act, an identity parade must have nine participants if there is a single suspect. But despite efforts to improve community relations, officers in many parts of Britain have found it difficult to persuade black people to take part in parades.

Inspector Terry Hill, of Toxteth, Liverpool, which has a relatively small black population, said: 'It's a problem of divided loyalties, and it was very difficult to find people who did not know everybody else.'

However, Asad Rehman, spokesman for the Newham Monitoring Project in east London, which campaigns against 'police harassment of blacks', believes that his community's reluctance to participate in identity parades reflects black distrust of the police.

He said: 'It is reflective of the wider issue raised by the relationship between the police and judicial system towards black people.

'Blacks have little faith in the police and because of harassment, blacks have not been encouraged to view police activity as beneficial.'

At the Ladywood police station in Birmingham, Constable Anthony Turner, who organises many of the parades, believes that the recession and improved police-community relations are responsible for the city's success in this field.

Those who volunteer to take part in parades in Ladywood are paid a fee of pounds 8. PC Turner said: 'We can arrange a black parade in hours. A few years ago you could not get a black person near a police station, now we have lots of volunteers on our books.'

Last night, a Home Office spokesman said that there was a problem in recruiting black volunteers for identity parades. But he added: 'It's more a question of population logistics rather than distrust of the police.'