Leading article: Time to rethink stop and search

Share
Related Topics

The newly appointed Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, says he wants to cut his officers' use of random stop-and-search powers by half. Rightly so. It can only be hoped that other police forces around the country will follow the Met's lead.

There are three basic problems with stop and search. The most glaring is that, used randomly, it is highly inefficient: barely one in 10 searches results in an arrest, and in some areas the rate drops as low as 2 per cent. Even so, police use of the power has spiralled out of control. There were more than 50,000 searches last year in London alone.

Most pernicious of all is the effect on community relations as disproportionate targeting of ethnic groups inflames racial tensions and entrenches a destructive "them and us" mentality in police and citizens alike.

The statistics are unequivocal. Black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts, Asian people twice as likely. No amount of rationalisation can either make such obvious discrimination acceptable, or dispel the bad feeling it causes. Stop and search not only excerbates ethnic friction, but it also provides ammunition to those who would foster such grievances for their own ends.

Neither should the corrosive effect of antagonism between the police and local communities be downplayed. It would, of course, be simplistic to blame last August's riots on a single cause. But the fact that a high proportion of participants blamed recurrent, low-level humiliation at the hands of the police cannot be ignored either. The sad thing is the extent to which history has repeated itself. The precursor to current stop-and-search laws – the hated "sus" laws – were repealed after race riots in the early 1980s similarly shone a spotlight on police targeting of young black men.

It may be that there is an effective role for targeted stop and search, in combating rising levels of knife crime, for example. But the powers must be more closely controlled and more intelligently applied. Mr Hogan-Howe is to be applauded for taking the initiative.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn