Black people in diaspora are face with racial profiling as a result of discrimination based on their skin colour, according to new analysis which reveals that “racial profiling” has increased over the past year. Black people are 30 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales, Researchers say the findings, based on government statistics, represent the worst international record of discrimination involving stop and search.
The figures refer to the use of section 60, the contentious police power that allows officers to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion and which was cited as an aggravating factor behind the August riots. Analysis by the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Open Society Justice Initiative shows during the past 12 months a black person was 29.7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person. That figure was 26.6 the previous year.
In 2009, black people were 10.7 times more likely to be stopped than whites under the controversial “exceptional” power. Mounting disquiet over the policy’s damaging effect on black communities prompted Scotland Yard last week to announce a scaling back of its use of section 60, which has become a central element of the Yard’s anti-knife crime strategy.
A separate analysis, based on Home Office data, reveals that less than 0.5% of section 60 searches led to an arrest for possession of a dangerous weapon, five times fewer than a decade ago. Dr Michael Shiner, of the campaign group StopWatch and the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at the LSE, said: “More than ever, we need policing to be fair and accountable. All too often impacted communities have complained about abusive police tactics only to be ignored or, worse still, told they are wrong. Searches that do not require individual suspicion are particularly divisive and should be conducted sparingly, if at all.
“The very existence of section 60 should be critically reviewed and, if it is found to be necessary, increased safeguards and strict criteria should be put in place, including judicial authorisation, before the power can be mobilised.”
On Friday, the IPCC conceded that stop and searches that yield no arrest were antagonistic and “highly intrusive”. A legal challenge that will ask the high court to rule section 60 “incompatible” with the European convention on human rights is under way. The case centres on a 37-year-old woman who claims she was targeted because she was black. Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy solicitors said there was clear statistical evidence that section 60 was being used in a discriminatory manner. He added: “There are not sufficient safeguards to ensure that the interference with individuals’ personal integrity and liberty that such searches entail is proportionate and in accordance with the law.”
Although, section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows a police officer to stop and search without suspicion in a designated area for a 24-hour period. As it stands, it does not give any ground for targeting a person on the basis of race.