Our library Race, Crime and Justice Research skills

10 things you didn’t know about the stop and search of minority ethnic groups

The next post in our Race and Crime series comes from Holly Khambatta-Higgins and Robyn Moor.

Although most of us are aware that the police carry out stop and searches, few of us will have first-hand experience of the process. This means we’re basing our understanding of stop and search on television, newspapers and other pieces of media, which don’t always give the full picture. Luckily, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre has a great selection of resources, making it easy to learn more about the nature of stop and searches on minority ethnic groups.

Image courtesy Darren Johnson

Based on our research at the Resource Centre we’ve created a list of the top 10 things you didn’t know about stop and search:

1. The power to stop and search can be found under the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act of 1984, Code A, 2.2. This states that a police officer cannot stop and search an individual without reasonable suspicion that they will find an illegal item on the individual. The PACE Act also makes it clear that this suspicion cannot be influenced by personal factors or individual prejudice (Home Office 1997).

2. The power under which police carry out a stop and search, set out as ‘reasonable suspicion’, is not clearly defined. Consequently, police often justify a discriminatory search on rather unfair terms (Greater London Council 1983).

3. There are two instances in which an officer can stop and search an individual without reasonable suspicion. Firstly, when it is necessary to do so in order to prevent an act of terror; this is under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Secondly, under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, an officer of the rank of Inspector or higher, may carry out a stop and search if they fear serious violence or the carrying of a weapon within a specific situation, such as a football match (Delsol and Shiner 2015).

4. Those who are stopped and searched are not an accurate representation of the population. Instead there is a disproportionate amount of individuals from ethnic minorities and low economic backgrounds (Fitzgerald 1999).

5. Within Paris, Black people are six times more likely than white people to be the target of stop and search. Similarly, Arabs are 7.8% more likely to experience stop and search than white people (Open society institute 2009).

6. The frustration and hardship felt by some ethnic minorities is not always recognised by police. Sometimes such frustrations are used as proof of a crime (Institute of Race Relations 1987).

7. For many years racial groups protested against stop and search after it became a worry in their everyday lives. Many feared to enter into busy city centres due to the potential of being stopped and searched, which was likely to lead to an unfair arrest (The Institution of Race Relations 1979).

8. The stop and search of racial minorities within European countries such as Spain can often be extremely violent. Amnesty International reported in 2002 that some stop and searches can lead to abuse, assault and in some cases hospitalisation for serious injury (Open Society institute 2009).

9. During interviews conducted with individuals who had been stopped and searched in Paris, it was found that 31% of Black respondents had been stopped between two and four times in the previous month, with 18% being stopped over five times a month. In fact the only interviewees who reported being stopped over nine times a month were Black respondents (Open Society Justice Initiative 2009).

10. There is no credible evidence to suggests stop and searches are a strong deterrent to potential offenders (Bland et al 2000). In London 1983 only 2% of stop and searches resulted in prosecutions (Greater London Council 1983).

We may question then; why do stop and searches persist?

By aiucentre

An open access library specialising in the study of race, ethnicity and migration. Part of the University of Manchester and based at Manchester Central Library.

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