What could these men have in common? Hmm

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They could hardly be more different. From Olympic medallists and an equalities campaigner to an award-winning musician and a prominent bishop, you'd be forgiven for thinking the only thing they have in common is the colour of their skin. But the other thing is that all have been stopped in their cars by the police.

But the England and Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe has had enough. Next month his lawyers will seek damages from Essex Police for wrongful arrest and unlawful detention. The footballer was kept in a cell overnight last month on suspicion of driving while disqualified – despite the fact that his ban had been suspended pending an appeal.

The move follows complaints of harassment by the footballer last week, who had been pulled over in his £150,000 Ferrari just days after announcing his intention to take legal action against the force.

The case has reignited a wider debate over the disproportionate use of stop and search tactics against black people. Last night the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) criticised the police for its "lack of progress" over stop and search – a decade on from the inquiry by Sir William Macpherson into the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence which accused the police of institutional racism. "Black people are still seven times more like likely to be stopped and searched than white people in England and Wales. These figures are a major impediment to good race relations and cannot be justified by crime detections, since only around one in six people in all racial groups are then arrested," said an EHRC spokesman.

And Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust think tank, said: "[Defoe's treatment] suggests there is still a view among many police that to be black is somehow suspicious."

His concerns were echoed by the Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp, who said: "I don't want to get involved in the race thing, but you do wonder why they are stopping the kid. Why shouldn't he have a nice car, white or black lad? Good luck to them."

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson admitted that there is a wider problem: "People from black and minority ethnic communities are still over-represented in the criminal justice system, and we know we need to do more to address this."