An open letter to Theresa May, Nick Herbert and Bernard Hogan-Howe has been published by a collective of organisations opposing police stop and search policy, including Netpol. The letter calls for, amongst other things, the suspension of s60 stop and search powers, which allow the police to stop and search whoever they wish, without any need for ‘reasonable suspicion’.
There is strong evidence that s60 is disproportionately used against the black and Asian population. In a recent study of protest policing published in July this year, Netpol found that
“s60 is also inappropriately used at political protests to target particular social groups, such as young people, or to harass individuals who are known political activists or associated with particular political groups.”
s60 search powers are in place to allow police searches for weapons, yet as the letter below makes clear, only 0.4% of such searches result in an arrest (let alone a conviction) for possession of a dangerous weapon. This is a police power that is widely abused and hugely damaging. We wholeheartedly join the call for immediate suspension of s60 powers.
We are a collective of organisations that believe police stop-and-search tactics are damaging the relationship between young people and society. We are calling for the police to change their approach.
Our work with young people, and in-depth research into last summer’s riots, shows that stop-and-search was a key causal factor in the violence that swept the country.
The Metropolitan Police will soon release figures to demonstrate a reduction in the number of stop and searches conducted as well as an improvement in effectiveness. Disproportionality will also be shown to have reduced.
We acknowledge these developments but believe this is still not enough. Young people remain angry about stop-and-search – they believe that it continues to be a discriminatory and dehumanising imposition. Some feel that if they are to be treated as suspects, they may as well commit crime.
We believe that stop-and-search is the embodiment of the negative relationships young people have with the police. It is often carried out with little reason given and makes no differentiation between criminal and victim. Between you, you three have the power to change this.
We are calling on you to take steps to further reduce the use of stop-and-search with young people, to increase effectiveness of stop-and-search and to reduce disproportionality in stop and search.
Specifically we are asking for:
1) The suspension of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) which allows officers to stop and search young people without even the safeguard of reasonable suspicion.
2) Interested parties: civil liberties groups and community organisations to scrutinise and comment on ACPO’s forth coming review of “Best Practice” in the use of Stop and Search. We are sceptical that a review of best practice is sufficient to deal with the gravity of the issues at hand, and communities must be allowed the chance to read it and deliver their verdict.
3) The Metropolitan police to reveal the details of their forthcoming stop and search policy “STOP-IT” and allow space for consultation with communities. If stop and search is ever to be a positive force for community safety communities must support it. This will not happen if they feel it is simply imposed upon them from above.
We make this call for three good reasons:
1. Stop and search is not effective. Only 1/10 stops under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence act (1984) results in an arrest, and 0.4% of stops under Section 60 result in an arrest for a dangerous weapon. Yet we know that negative interactions with the police destroy trust and make young people more likely to resent police. For every knife Section 60 takes off the streets many more young people lose their trust in the police and turn to weapons to make them feel safer.
2. Police and community relationships are better without it. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission report Stop and Think report highlighted that when stop-and-search was reduced in Staffordshire and Cleveland crime levels also dropped and public confidence in the police increased.
3. It is discriminatory. Black people are 37 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched under Section 60 by police in England and Wales. Black and Asian people are more likely to be stopped across all forms of stop and search than white people.
In relation to this last reason based on discrimination you are required to take corrective steps if you are to comply with your obligation to have due regard to the three equality aims in Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
Young people have a right to be on the street, unchallenged, unless there is good cause to believe they are involved in crime. Please support us in asking the police service to reduce the use of stop-and-search and to improve their relationships with young people.
Sign up to the campaign for better and fairer engagement between the police and young people at http://www.stopandtalk.co.uk.
- Just for Kids Law
- Young Hackney World
- What We’ve Done
- Fully Focused Community
- Catalyst Gateway
- Stop and Search Legal Project
- Poached Creative
- Off Centre
- Stop and Search UK Mobile App
- Art Against Knives
- Haringey Young People Empowered (HYPE) Release
- Newham Monitoring Project