The Evening Standard front page yesterday lead with news of the Metropolitan Police Service’s decision to “dramatically reduce” the number of random stop and searches in a bid to improve relations with ethnic minorities and to address the problem of alienation.
The news follows the announcement by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, of a national review of stop and search in response to the summer riots and the belief that the policy was destroying trust between police forces and citizens, particularly ethnic minority youths.
From the ES:
“Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has ordered a radical overhaul of the policy amid fears the force is alienating many Londoners.
“Senior officers will be told to halve random drug stops across the capital and also reduce Section 60 orders - which permit random stop and searches across wide areas - by a similar amount.
“The move comes a week after the historic conviction of two of black teenager Stephen Lawrence's racist killers and marks a significant change in Scotland Yard's policy on the contentious tactic. But the decision will be watched intently amid fears it could lead to more violence on the streets.
“Fierce debate has raged for years over the success of stop and search in London. Critics say it has alienated huge swathes of young people in ethnic minority communities.
“Last week Mr Hogan-Howe described stop and search as "a real challenge" and said the Met needed to be more "targeted". Further details of its new strategy are expected today. The commissioner wants the arrest rate per number of stops increased to 20 per cent. It is now around six per cent, the lowest of any major UK city.
“All officers are to be given new guidelines on stop and searches. In particular, there are concerns commanders over-use Section 60 powers, which let police stop people without citing grounds for suspicion. These are felt to be ineffective and alienate young people, particularly those from ethnic minorities. London MP Chuka Umunna recently sought a Commons debate on "shocking" figures showing black people were 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched in the capital under the powers.
“Kam Gill of StopWatch, which examines stop and search policies, said: "The tactic is currently used as a clumsy catch-all. It means officers may recover one weapon for every 200 people stopped but also means you don't get to hear about another five because people no longer trust the police.""
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