Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stop and Search- again

Barely had my fingers left the keyboard on my last missive about Stop and Search when its back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

So as a proportion of the population you are more likely to be searched if you're black. On the face of it, that seems worrisome.

But these statistics can only be the tip of the iceberg in what has to be a huge complex interlinked web of many different socio-economic-cultural factors. Why are more blacks per head of population in jail for instance. And to be in jail, that means convicted of an offence, so no issues about (un)reasonable grounds for search by officers.

Delving into this is far beyond me here. I could spend hours debating the availability of role models, challenges of peer pressure, gang culture, the impact of living in an urban or rural area (without spending time researching it, I believe the majority of ethnic minorities continue to reside in cities), how this and all the above link in relative economic depravation or wealth, etc etc.

For me, I still stand by what I said in my previous post. In my specific local area, there is a particular issue with reported street crime- robbery and mugging, and the suspects are predominantly black and to a lesser extent Asian youths- and consequently most stop searches are resultant from this, . However, my previous force area was a much more residential sector, where the principal problem was burglary and motor vehicle offences, for whom the suspects were predominantly white male youths (especially for the motor vehicle offences) and white adults.

So do I change the way I work or the way I expect my team to work as a result as a result of this research? No. I will just carry on the way I think best. Namely treat each case, each incident, each call on its own merits, and deal with it with the information I have and the powers available.

Just please don't call me racist. One of the few times I've nearly lost my rag with people over the years is when I've stopped a black male for doing a fairly blatant driving offence (red light, taking the mickey with speed limits etc) and I get that classic line "You're only stopping me because I'm black". The best one being someone at night doing 45 in a 30 in a car with blacked out windows. I couldn't tell whether it was a male or female driving, let alone any ethnicity. The only result I tend to find that particular comment brings is that the words of advice option quickly becomes less favoured and the pen is out on the FPN.

And before anyone says anything, I don't only stop black drivers. Unless you give me the finger or try and hide your face from me, I look at the state of the car first, manner of driving second and the looks of the driver a very distant and usually irrelevant third when it comes to deciding when to pull someone over. As it happens, as far as I can remember, every pursuit I've been has been a white driver.

And here's an afterthought- most of the people stop and searched are male. Does that make us institutionally sexist? Should an advisory group be formed to examine and direct us on this particular issue? Should groups like Fathers4Justice or Presidents of Working Men's Clubs be asked to comment on this male bias? I feel the media have missed an opportunity to criticise, sorry I mean highlight an issue to debate, here.