I sometimes think the press have a check list of items to write about when they can find nothing else. On that list is Police brutality, Police mistakes (with hindsight naturally) and at the very top is Stop and Search and its evil partner racism.
For 30 years I was a Police Officer in uniform and in plain clothes. I lost count of the people I have stopped and searched in that time but I have some confessions to make.
When I went to work I would not racially profile people to see where they lived or what cars they drive (unless they were known criminals). I would research what crimes had been committed on my beat since I was last on duty and note the descriptions of any suspect(s). Police Officers make it their business to know who lives on “their ground” and would have a pretty good idea who had done what crime. They say that a good criminal would never shit on their own doorstep. The ones I dealt with would not only shit there but stand in it leaving a trail right to their door.
During my shift I was sent from job to job and had little time to do anything else. Why would I want to stop and search someone just for the sake of it. They are liable to be verbally aggressive, will probably film me, may complain and all so I could put my hands in places I really didn’t want to put them.
Come on, all the statistics say that Police search more black people than white don’t they? Is the need to stop and search something Police are born with, is it issued with a uniform at training school or does it just grow over time? We all know that statistics have a 97.56% chance of being twisted or made to fit anything.
In my career I have never searched anyone over the age of 70. Does this mean that I am ageist? In a way I probably am although in my 30 years I never came across an over 70’s knife welding robber or cat burglar. Most would much prefer to be at home with slippers on and a cat on their knee (Is that profiling?) It may be different if I was working my beat where the intelligence showed a white woman, aged about 75 riding a mobility scooter and using a machete is concerned in a spate of robberies. I would not be trying to stop and search teenaged black youths as they just did not fit what I knew. If the estate or area I worked consisted of 80% of over 70’s women on scooters then my stop and search forms would show that I was unfairly singling out older white women.
Let us take this a little further. What if I had stopped my fictional white “Moll” and explained I was looking for a machete used in robberies. What if she refused, became verbally aggressive, shouted that I was only stopping her because she was a white granny. Am I racially profiling or picking on white 70 year old women? Too right I am.
Going even further. My 70 year old has committed numerous robberies and on several occasions she has slashed her victims and reversed over them leaving a bleeding mess on the floor. To protect myself should I put her in handcuffs for the short time it will take me to search her?
What am I trying to show here. I am trying to ask you to forget about race or colour or even age and understand that as a Police officer my only concern is protecting others and stopping crime. Without stop and search could this be done? Possibly, but a lot more innocent people would get hurt or may not be around to complain. Would more people carry weapons knowing they could not be searched. Of course they would, some because it looks good, some for “self defence” and others because they want to use them. The one common denominator about caring a weapon is that people use them and people get injured or die.
I know you want to talk about statistics. I have hopefully shown how they can be twisted more than a teacher with a bullies ear (darn, you cannot do that either now), so first we need to look at some political history. I will try not to bore you.
In 2013 Theresa May was the Home Secretary. (excuse me whilst I spit). She wanted two things. To cut Police numbers drastically and to elevate her standing with the Afro-Caribbean population. She saw that black people did not like stop and search and those darn statistics tended to show that the Police were using the power against them more than white people. Making a stand over stops on black people would make the police look racist and her look good. She had tried and failed once before to curtail stop and search in Parliament. She needed more ammunition so her aides commissioned a report to show just how institutionally racist the Police were when it came to stop and search.
A previous Home Office report had shown that “stops” alone, as a percentage of society was giving a distorted figure. To get a true idea you needed to know who was on the streets at the time Police were stopping and searching people (if there were two white people and two black people who were they searching?)
Researchers went out and counted the make up of the population on the streets and compared that to the stop and searches recorded by Police. Doing this showed that the ethnic bias disappeared and the Police actually stopped and searched more white people. The research also showed Police did not target areas based on the make up of the area but rather where the most crimes were being committed.
It was also found that stop and search was not recorded correctly on occasions. The Police could be rude but there was no suggestion of the Police being racial in any way.
The findings were reported to Theresa May’s special advisor who, besides flying into a rage, re wrote her Parliamentary speech giving the original statistics on stops being prejudiced against blacks. It is not known if May was told of the outcome of the research do I leave that up to you to decide.
May gave her statement to Parliament and also said that up to a quarter of a million stops could be illegal because forms were filled out incorrectly. She demanded that strict rules be applied if Stops and searches were not reduced. At the time, the Home Secretary said it was no longer sustainable that black people were still seven times more likely to be searched on the street than white people. She also said it had been seen as Sharpley divisive in Britain’s black and minority ethnic communities.
Now, for all those who like to quote statistics. Between 2008-2018 the Metropolitan Police proceeded against 30,476 people for knife crimes. Of these the majority (14,527) were African Caribbean, 9744 were white with Asian people coming in third at 3443. Black people make up nearly half of the knife crimes proceeded against, and tragically nearly half of all murder victims and suspects are black. Not one offence was recorded against a white, 75 year old female on a mobility scooter you will be pleased to hear.
So, whilst Stop and Search is controversial, it takes knifes of the street and it undoubtedly saves lives. Sadly those who object and shout the loudest are the very people most at risk.
The next life could be yours.