"Disproportionate and Discriminatory"

Equality watchdog publishes stop-and-search findings

Black people in Hammersmith and Fulham are far more likely to be stopped-and-searched by police than white people, according to a report issued by the equality watchdog.

Research carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows black people are estimated to be 6.9 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched in H&F – the fourth highest figure in London.

The Commission carried out a review, called 'Stop and Think', of how stop and search powers were being used in 42 policing areas over the past five years. It found that between November 2008 and October 2009, black/white 'disproportionality ratios' were highest in south west inner London i.e. Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Wandsworth.

According to the EHRC, black people are stopped and searched at least six times the rate of white people nationally, while Asian people are about twice as likely to be stopped and searched as white people. The watchdog says the evidence suggests that “racial stereotyping and discrimination are significant factors” behind the higher rates of stops and searches.

Nationally, the report found that few police forces had made improvements over the five year period and that and most continued to use their stop and search powers disproportionately against black and Asian people. According to the report, some police forces had actually increased their use of stop and search against ethnic minorities.

Commissioner Simon Woolley from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “There is little evidence to suggest that targeting black people disproportionately with stop and search powers reduces crime. In fact, this report shows evidence that police forces, like Staffordshire and Cleveland, which have used fairer stop and search tactics have not only seen reductions in crimes rates in line with overall trends, but have also increased public confidence in the police.

“'It is unrealistic and unhelpful to demand that policing should be perfect. However, police services should strive to work fairly and effectively while respecting basic human rights and discrimination law. Only then can they be said to be ‘good enough’.”

The EHRC also said its researchers found that black and ethnic minority youths were over-represented in the criminal justice system and that officers were also more likely to give white youths more lenient reprimands or fines, while black and mixed race youths were more likely to be charged with crimes. They say this was the case even when the alleged crimes and the individuals’ criminal histories were similar.

In a statement, the EHRC says: “The majority of stops and searches in England and Wales are conducted under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). We believe that the current police use of PACE stop and search powers may be unlawful, disproportionate, discriminatory and damaging to relations within and between communities. We will consider taking enforcement action if we believe police forces are not sufficiently addressing this problem.”

We have asked Hammersmith and Fulham police to comment and await their reply.

March 18, 2010