• Sunday, June 26, 2022


EXCLUSIVE: ‘We must better explain stop and search of Asians’

Neil Basu (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images).

By: Radhakrishna N S



By  George Willoughby

AN INVESTIGATION by Eastern Eye can reveal that police stop and search an Asian person every 10 minutes in Eng­land and Wales.

The latest Home Office figures show officers stopped more than 57,800 Asians in the year ending March 2020. That is nearly up 46 per cent compared to the previous reporting period.

The country’s top Asian cop, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu told Eastern Eye, “Stop and search is the most controversial power that we use. If we cannot explain why it is dispropor­tionate, then we are in a very bad place.

“We have to examine it very closely because it is an incredibly valuable polic­ing tool. If we do not use it responsibly and correctly, then we deserve to lose it.”

Eastern Eye’s research also shows that south Asians living in England and Wales are being disproportionately targeted.

Asians were twice as likely to be stopped and searched than white people, the data revealed.

West Midlands Police stopped the highest proportion of Asian people, mak­ing up over one quarter (26.9 per cent) of searches. Asians account for 12 per cent of the total population in the area.

“The rise in the proportion of south Asians stopped by the police in recent years is concerning,” said Birmingham Edgbaston MP, Preet Kaur Gill.

“The government has a responsibility to keep people safe irrespective of their race, sex or religion, but any strategies to do this must carry the confidence and trust of all of our communities.”

The force’s lead for stop and search, Superintendent Ed Foster, said, “On those figures alone, Asians are 2.4 times more likely to be stopped as white people. We are working to better understand why dispro­portionality occurs, including research with four academic centres and work­shops with communities who are dispro­portionately affected by stop and search.”

West Midlands Police cover several ar­eas where south Asians are the majority ethnic group. This includes central and east Birmingham which have high crime rates in the West Midlands.

Basu said these types of areas are a contributing factor as to why the figures are disproportionate.

“We need to get to the point of why it is disproportionate”, he said. “Some places have very high levels of deprivation. They have been socially and economically ig­nored for decades.

“The way we do things can end up be­ing disproportionate. This is without talk­ing about why society is left in a position where disproportionality exists.”

Further, the number of Asian people stopped and searched by police forces has increased in two consecutive years.

Section one of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act gives officers the power to search people or their vehicles if they have “reasonable cause” to find danger­ous items.

Figures released by the Home Office showed that one in 10 of all searches from 2019-20 were Asian.

Of the 43 police forces, eight were above the one in 10 average for Asians stopped and searched.

Figures for West Yorkshire Police showed that over one in five stop and search­es were from Asian communities.

Assistant chief constable Catherine Hankinson told Eastern Eye, “We are very committed to openness and transparen­cy regarding the use of stop and search.”

“The use by officers of stop and search powers can be a vital tool in keeping the communities of West Yorkshire safe. We are acutely aware that we must use these powers carefully and proportionally.

“We recognise that figures show people from BAME backgrounds are generally over-represented in stop and search fig­ures nationally, and locally. There is work ongoing across a number of areas to bet­ter understand this disproportionality.”

In Bedfordshire, Luton makes up one-third of the Asian communities in the county, which may explain why a large proportion of stop and searches are Asian.

Superintendent Ian Taylor, the force’s lead for stop and search, defended the use of their powers. “We recognise that the fair and legitimate use of stop and search is a key component to building trust and confidence with the communi­ties of Bedfordshire that we serve.

“Using the latest census data and stop search statistics updated in November, in Bedfordshire six per 1,000 members of the Asian community were stopped and searched over the past year, compared to a national average of 15 per 1,000 people.

“We invite close external and inde­pendent scrutiny through direct work with community members who can re­view the statistics around stop and search and disproportionality.”

‘Criminalising a generation?’

Research by Eastern Eye also sug­gests that younger people are stopped and searched more often compared to older age groups.

Data from October 2019 to Octo­ber 2020 showed that a total of 5,398 Asians were stopped and searched across all police force areas in Eng­land and Wales.

The reported incidents were counted only if ethnicity and age were identified.

From the total number of search­es, 3,191 (59 per cent) were between the ages of 10 and 24.

As the previous annual figures showed, West Midlands, West York­shire and Bedfordshire stopped the highest percentage of Asians.

An analysis looked into these three forces and whether they were “crimi­nalising a generation” by stopping younger Asians.

Out of the 20,409 searches by West Midlands Police, 5,875 were people of Asian heritage. The number of Asians aged 10-24 who were stopped and searched was 3,707, meaning six in 10 searches were in this age bracket.

Superintendent Ed Foster from West Midlands Police said, “Our in­tention is to put in place interven­tions to reduce disproportionality, including ongoing training to ensure fairness and eliminate any bias.”

West Yorkshire Police also had the same percentage of younger Asians stopped and searched.

Assistant chief constable Catherine Hankinson said, “We record every instance of the use of stop and search powers on body-worn cameras, fur­ther increasing accountability and our actions are subject to robust scrutiny. We are educating staff, en­gaging with communities [and] ex­plaining our use of powers and evolving our policies.”

Of these three forces, Bedfordshire Police stopped the highest number of younger Asian people.

During the same period, 3,579 people were stopped and searched – 692 of which were Asian. People with Asian heritage aged between 10 and 24 accounted for 483 of those search­es. This means that seven in 10 of Asian people stopped and searched were below the age of 25.

Superintendent Ian Taylor said, “We have recently held meetings on stop and search which gave the wider community the chance to discuss how we are using [the tool].

“[It is] an approach we are also replicating with young people working alongside our partnership agencies.

“Community members can review the statistics around stop and search and disproportionality, as well as randomly selected video examples.”

Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Po­lice emphasised that younger people need to feature in independent advi­sory groups.

“It is not people my age who are thought to be the problem,” he said.

“It is youngsters who need to be advising us on how to [stop and search] in a professional and better way.

“When these techniques are used professionally, and in an intelli­gence-led way, people support them.

“I’m less concerned about it rais­ing a generation of criminals. I’m more concerned about generating a generation that no longer trusts the police. That is bad for the public and bad for society.”

The next annual dataset on stop and search will be published later this year.

Eastern Eye

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