BELATED moves are to being made to overhaul the hugely controversial stop and search powers after an independent study found that police officers held “unconscious bias” against minorities and children in the majority of cases.
The new proposals would apparently mean that forces across England and Wales will not be able to search people simply on “gut instinct” and will instead have to record the reason and explain it to the potential suspect.
Critics of the draconian powers argue that the use of stop and search is more about racial profiling than legitimate cause, criticisms that appear to be borne out by the statistics which show that young black men remain many times more likely to be stopped by police than their white counterparts.
The new drive has been prompted by research by the College of Policing, whose stop and search lead Garth Stinson said the application of the powers was a “mixed bag” across different forces.
He said: “We’re trying to get back to basics — just because you have got information about somebody, doesn’t mean you should walk with the assumption that you’re going to search them.
“We should see a reduction in the number of searches that have to be carried out. But make no bones about it, we’re also telling the officers — because the vast majority of officers are doing a tough job — (the public) expect us to search people if they have the grounds.
“There’s a massive step between ‘I’ve got a gut instinct he’s a wrong ‘un,’ through to ‘that gives me the evidence to get in their pockets’.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said “trust is eroded” by the “clear signs that some communities are being disproportionately targeted.
“Black people are still far more likely to be stopped and searched. In fact, that greater likelihood is actually growing.”