In the third installment of our Race and Crime series Teeah Blake introduces the issues around disproportionate stop and search practices in the UK.
Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice. Recognise these names? Perhaps you would recognise their faces. They are just a few of the unarmed Black men who have been killed by police in the USA in recent years, and with the help of camera phones and Facebook live, we have been able to see these shootings as and when they happen. The media coverage of these events has been extensive and received by many, leading to the re-ignition of the Black Lives Matter Campaign (#BLM) with protests all over the USA, as well as here in the UK.
This most violent type of racial discrimination is rarely seen in the UK. However, there is evidence of a persistent and damaging form of discrimination against ethnic minorities by police officers in the form of disproportionate stop and search.
Statistics? Black people are four times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts (based on 2015 data). Not only do these searches happen more frequently, they are more intrusive too. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 passed as a result of 9/11 has enabled law enforcement to search individuals ‘without suspicion’ when violence is anticipated. This has led to the number of searches of ethnic minorities rocketing.
However, it is important to ask why this apparent racial discrimination is occurring. Do police target these groups due to stereotyping and racial prejudice? Or is it simply a coincidence; are these groups of people just in the areas where stop and searches frequently take place? What do you think? No matter what the correct explanation is, it leads to the criminalisation of certain ethnic minority groups.
Many of you will remember the infamous murder of Stephen Lawrence back in 1993. There was a failure of the Metropolitan Police in dealing with this murder which led to a highly scrutinised public enquiry; the Macpherson Report. Institutional racism was the conclusion. The Metropolitan Police were found to be systematically racist against ethnic minorities. This report was meant to bring a radical change in the policing of ethnic minorities. Whether it has brought about real change is debatable.
Much more about disproportionate stop and search and discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system can be found in the Race Relations Resource Centre library and archive. For example: