`Yes, officer, this is my own vehicle'

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The Independent Online
TRAVELLING IN a car with my sister, we were pulled over on Brixton Hill, south London, by a police vehicle. Barring the issue of colour, we couldn't see any reason why we should have been stopped and began to joke about the situation.

A police officer approached our car to find us laughing; he seemed perturbed that we were not appreciating the gravity of the situation. Before he could speak my sister pulled out her warrant card, confirming that she was also a police officer, "Is there a problem?" she asked. He mumbled an apology and something about "...fitting a description" beforescuttling back to his vehicle.

The Home Office's report, published yesterday, highlights Britain's worst- kept secret, at least as far as the black community is concerned: Blacks are so used to being stopped by the police that the experiences often prompt a kind of gallows humour, as well as anger.

For black males being stopped by the police is a rites-of-passage experience, akin to getting your heart broken for the first time.

As a boy I remember hearing my uncles, (both professional footballers and therefore demi-gods to me) talk about being hassled by the police. My uncle David drove a TVR sports car and was often stopped. On one occasion he was stopped outside his grandmother's home. I recall watching from the house as he explained to the officer that, `yes, this was his car" and that he did have the documents inside.

My `first time' took place when I was 15. Returning from school with my guitar I was stopped by two officers. They proceeded to search me, my guitar case and my guitar before thanking me and driving away. They never explained why they had stopped me.

The real problem is that the experience of being stopped, like the inability to hail a black cab or to sail past customs officials, has become the norm for blacks. And the irony is that the only one of my six brothers and sisters who has spent any significant time in a police station is paid to do so.