White people more likely to be carrying drugs when stopped and searched; report reveals

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LONDON: The disproportionate use of stop and search powers on black, Asian and ethnic minority people is threatening public trust and confidence in the police, officials have warned.

HM Inspector Mike Cunningham

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICFRS) found that black people are at least eight times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, even though it is statistically less likely for drugs to be found. The stark figure was examined in the body’s annual report on the legitimacy of policing across England and Wales, where over three quarters of forces were found to be “good” or “outstanding” overall, the Independent has reported.
HM Inspector Mike Cunningham, who led the inspection, said that police were acting “ethically, lawfully and treating all the people they serve with fairness and respect”. “But that is not to say that there aren’t elements forces could and should improve upon,” he added. “Of particular concern is the continuing over-representation of black people in stop and search figures.
Forces must be able to explain the reasons for any disparity if they are to enhance the trust and confidence of all communities.” There were more than 295,600 stop and searches carried out in the 2016/17 financial year – a rate of five per 1,000 people. HMICFRS found that 94 per cent of examined incidents had “reasonable grounds” or resulted in objects including drugs, weapons, stolen goods or evidence of other crimes being found. In drug searches, however, were less likely to be successful on black people (26 per cent) than white people (33 per cent).
The report said the difference suggests “that the use ofstop and search on black people might be based on weaker grounds for suspicion than its use on white people, particularly in respect of drugs”, adding that police forces have not sufficiently explained the reasons.
The authority said the recording of ethnicity was in consistent, meaning that the gulf for BAME and white people “may be even higher than published”, calling on forces to standardise practices and record both self defined ethnicity and officer-defined ethnicity. It warned that police must have sufficient grounds to exercise the “intrusive” power, with its disproportionate use on BAME communities “continuing to threaten trust and confidence in the police”.
The use of stop and search has been declining over recent years following waves of national controversy and local tension, with the 2016/17 total a mere quarter of that from 2011/12. But while stop and searches on white people have decreased by 78 per cent, the decrease for black people is just 66 per cent.