A new study has shown that UK police are 37 times more likely to stop and search a black person than a white person. The study said the fact that arrest rates are similar for black and white Britons raises questions about how police use power.
The Guardian reports that the recent study by the Human rights group, The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), investigated police use of Section 60 stops that empower officers to detain people without suspecting them of any particular crime. The study found that while overall police use of the power has decreased, the police applied the power excessively against ethnic minorities.
The Guardian reports that the EHRC study found that between 2008 and 2010, three quarters of all Section 60 stops in England, about 258,000, were carried out by the Metropolitan Police. Merseyside Police conducted 40,940 Section 60s in the same period.
According to EHRC, between 2008 and 2009, Metropolitan officers stopped 68 out of every 1,000 black people. The study said the number fell to 32.8 per 1,000 between 2010 and 2011.
The report said the worst rates of racially disproportionate stops were outside London. According to the BBC, the study found that an officer in the West Midlands was 28 times more likely to detain a black person under Section 60 than a white person. In the Greater Manchester force the figure was 21 times and in the Met 11 times. A British Transport police officer was 31 times more likely to stop a black person than a white person.
Asian people were 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched. According to the BBC, the study found that the percentage of ethnic minorities stopped and searched under Section 60 rose in the period 2008-11, from 51% to 64%.
Daily Mail reports the study said that nationally, black people were 37 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Section 60 than white people in 2010-11. From 2008 to 2011, the racial disproportionality worsened for the Met and West Midlands forces. Greater Manchester's disproportionality rate in the period 2008-9 was 44.9.
According to Daily Mail, the study also questioned the effectiveness of the searches. The study revealed that between 2008 and 2009, only 2.8 percent of the Section 60 searches resulted in an arrest. The figure fell to 2.3 percent between 2010 and 2011.
The Guardian notes that although police officers are required to have "reasonable suspicion" that a person is involved in a criminal action before conducting a search, Section 60 empowers officers to stop and search a person if they fear violence or disorder for any reason.
BBC reports Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey, said the EHRC report was a "welcome step in further understanding the impact that stop and search can have within our communities". He said: "Chief officers support the use of stop and search as these powers are critical in our efforts to tackle knife, gun and gang crimes."
EHRC, however, said the police may be breaching the legal requirement of their duties known as the public-sector equality duty that states. The report noted: "Any continuing and serious disproportionate use of these powers against ethnic minorities may indicate that the police and Home Office are not complying with their public-sector duties obligations."
According to Simon Woolley, a spokesman for EHRC, "Black youths are still being disproportionally targeted and without a clear explanation as to why, many in the community will see this as racial profiling. Moreover, police data itself questions the effectiveness of this practise. Some forces are using 200 or 300 stops before arresting an individual over a weapon." Woolley said: "We are encouraged at least that the Met seek to review the practice with a clear objective that avoids the crude measure of racial profiling and focuses on intelligence-led policing."
EHRC has threatened a legal challenge of the Met over allegation of discrimination in its use of the section 60 stop and search power.