MP calls for stop & search debate

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Chuka Umunna MP has called for an urgent debate in Parliament on stop and search after it emerged that black people are 26 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police.

Mr Umunna raised the issue with Leader of the House Sir George Young.in the House of Commons yesterday after recent research by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the London School of Economics, analysing Ministry of Justice statistics, found that there are 41.6 searches carried out by police under Section 60 for every 1000 black people and 1.6 for every 1000 white people. This was the widest ‘race gap’ which the research found internationally.

Mr Umunna said: “International research has been cited in The Observer showing that black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched in England and Wales. The researchers said that that was the most glaring example of racial profiling that they had seen. That figure is shocking. “May we have an urgent debate on the matter, to discern whether the police in England and Wales are using their powers of stop and search appropriately?”

In reply, the Leader of the House promised to raise the issue with Home Secretary Theresa May and ask her to respond on the issue.

Mr Umunna is MP for Streatham, one of the three constituencies that includes the Brixton area.

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Chuka Umunna is right

Mr Umunna is right to highlight this issue, and involvement of Rev. Jesse Jackson shows how important it is. While, it is understandable that the police needs to be able to do their job, the figures speak for themselves. No matter which way we look at it, racial profiling, institutional racism, downright racism, or legitimate police activities that unfortunately, affects a group of people that happen to be black, 26x is a high figure.

My worry is that the home office attempts to 'cut bureaucracy' might mean that the police are no longer required to gather data on race and ethnic identity, which means that we might not even have these kind of information in the future. This is especially so as it is somewhat fashionable to see race and racism as a insignificant factor

Each wrong and unjustified stop and search leaves a lasting impact on the person being stopped and feeds in the negative image of the police among the black youths and the black community generally. This impact on issues like community development and the ability of the police to function properly among some community. These figures are unacceptable and we need to understand why they are so high and how do we resolve this vexing issue of stop and search and race.

Femi Adeyemi
London

Old problems need intelligent responses

It saddens me that this is not a new problem. The stop and search issue harks back to wind rush age in post-World War II Britain and intensified further in the 1970’s and 1980’s manifesting itself in race riots in Brixton, Tottenham, Liverpool to name a few. The emerging Scarman Report in the early 80’s and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1994 paved the way to improving this eternal problem and the need for ‘reasonable evidence’ when stopping people has been a valiant attempt to tackle the issue. The recent research from George Soros’ foundation is on the money, there is a problem. Further, it is only going to get worse as the current government intends to remove the need for ‘reasonable evidence’ from Police stop and search powers - opening the floodgates to young black men (and Asian men these days) being unnecessarily stopped and impacted as Femi remarks above.

Like anything the situation takes two to tango. Without quoting evidence more young black men have been killed in London because of serious violence in the last few years than any other race. There is also clear evidence that young black men are more likely to fail in the British education service, receive lower wages at work, and are over represented in our prisons, and mental health services – plenty of obstacles in front of our youth then? Combine this with the fact that the police officers who work the beat quickly develop negative stereo types about young black men, the result is unavoidable; a significant proportion of front line police officers unconsciously walking into a self-perpetuating sub-culture that is based on the simple premise that the majority of young black men are criminals unless proven otherwise.

How do we fix this state of affairs? We must tackle the two big problems. The first is how we improve the situation and the perceptions of young black men in our cities. How do we address the aforementioned inequalities? Supporting and continuing the work of organisations like OBV, the BPA, ROTA, supporting young black men (especially those vulnerable to becoming one of the above statistics) and their families in navigating our complex society and building their social capital. The second is obliterating the negative sub culture that grips some parts of the Police service. On this there are community groups, campaigners, charities (such as the BPA) and important individuals such as Doreen Lawrence who have been a beacon in driving change in the Police service. Within the Police service there are many figures (usually towards the upper echelons) who recognise the problem and are trying their best to tackle it – these efforts and initiatives need to be built into training of officers from once they enter the service and throughout their careers and the work of Dr Richard Stone also makes some good points on internal police changes that could help tackle the negative elements of its sub culture.

If a political debate emerges tackling the issues facing our young black men and tackling the police’s negative culture should be the principles behind any intervention.

Thoughts?

Chuka Umunna is right

Interesting points; sadly no one is echoing these views down the corridors of government. This sad tragedy is another New Labour legacy.

MP calls for stop & search debate

The MPs should also look into the Employment Tribunal Service currently under the control of a possible racist.

Chuka Umunna is partially right

Praise to Mr Umunna for asking for this to be raised in the house. If this request is successful we should see how many MPs turn up.

The reason Mr Umunna is partially right is we should be having these debates in public. This could lead to a coalition of everyday people, academics, and interested MPs. We should also hear from the hundreds of innocent young people for whom SnS is no longer a odd occurence, but a regular chore.

I was speaking with friends last night and we came up with the following scenario:

Dragon's Den

Contestant #1: Mr Bobby Onther-Beat

"I have a product that I am seeking your investment in. It is a familiar house-hold brand, but has suffered from an image crisis, and needs new impetus".
"What are the returns on investment?"
"They vary. Our s1 model does best. It ranges from about 20% in some scenarios, but about 13% as an average".
"Over what period?"
"Well about 10 or 12 years"
"10 or 12 years? What about your worse performing products?"
"Well, our s44 model is newer and was produced in response to public demand. We needed to get it on the market quick. It's essentially the s1 model but without a lot of obstacles in the way. Our traders can pretty much go straight to the customer, without the need to target them in anyway".
"Some might say it is scattergun and less effective".
"I know. Our critics have said this. Many people think it is a great product though".
"Do these people get to use your product much?"
"No, it's the people farthest from experiencing our product who usually endorse it most. MPs, some journalists, and our traders".
"And this s44. What are the returns?"
"About 0.5% to 0.2%"
"Wow. Have you thought about re-designing your product, or actually using some good marketing tools".
"We do. The marketing tool is called 'intelligence-led'. Where we use it, the returns are higher, but we've seldom broke the 20% barrier".
"Do you use 'intelligence-led' for your s44 model".
"No. The s44 model and s60 models are exempt".
"I have to be honest, I'm out. I'm not sure which of your backers is happy with 20%, never mind 0.2%".
"I'm out too, I'm not sure why anyone would endorse something with such pitiful success".
"I'm out as well. When you consult your supporters, what do they say about these criticisms?".
"That our critics should come up with a better idea".
"Do your critics sit on your board".
"No".
"So they couldn't change the product even if they wanted to?"
"No".
"I'm out. It sounds like you need some of your critics on your board. Or your traders need to improve their approach drastically"
"I'm out. But out of interest, what is your products name? May be it is a branding issue".
"Stop and search".

Not only is this power misused in terms of racial profiling, it is actually quite a poor crime fighting tool. If 80-99% are unsuccessful why are police complaining about paperwork as their biggest time-waster?

Ideas to replace stop and search should be a serious part of the debate now. This has gone on for too long.

David Stuart

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