Disproportionality in UK Police ‘Stop and Search’ Not Racist Says Former Senior Detective

Disproportionality in UK Police ‘Stop and Search’ Not Racist Says Former Senior Detective
Police outside the Arndale Centre in Manchester, England, on Oct. 11, 2019, after a stabbing incident at the shopping center that left five people injured.(Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
Mary Clark

The disproportionate number of young black males being stopped by UK police under its stop and search power is not due to officers being racist, a former senior detective said on Monday.

Instead, he said, they are being stopped in higher numbers than other ethnicities because they are more frequently involved in street robberies, “county lines” drug dealing, gang violence, and knife crime, including murder, where the victims are themselves usually black people.

“It’s a sad fact, unfortunately, that young black men are involved in gang-related activity—so if we look at the gang matrix in London, 89 percent of people on that matrix are black and ethnic minorities,” ex-detective chief inspector of the Metropolitan Police Mike Neville told The Epoch Times.

“The police can’t help that—the police can try and be fair, but if a certain group or race or religion … commits a certain type of crime, then they [the police] have got to deal with it,” he said.

 A police officer and vehicles are seen at a cordon in Irving Street in Birmingham after a number of people were stabbed in the city centre, on Sept. 6, 2020. (Jacob King/PA via AP)
A police officer and vehicles are seen at a cordon in Irving Street in Birmingham after a number of people were stabbed in the city centre, on Sept. 6, 2020. (Jacob King/PA via AP)
Neville’s remarks come following a review of stop and search published last week by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) titled “Disproportionate use of police powers: A spotlight on stop and search and the use of force” (pdf).

The HMICFRS report states that ethnic minorities were over four times more likely to be stopped under stop and search than white people, rising to almost nine times more likely in the case of black people.

It called for the police to explain why.

"Forces must do more to ensure they identify disproportionality, understand the reasons for it, take action to reduce it where required, and explain those reasons and actions to the public," it stated.
"Without a proper explanation, members of the public may see the disproportionate use of powers as a sign of discrimination, and so police legitimacy may be undermined."

Ignoring Crime Statistics

Neville, however, criticized the review, saying it ignores the crime statistics that may explain the disproportionality.
“Black people are 3 percent of the population,” Neville said, “but they are 21 percent of the suspects convicted of murder. That’s seven times higher than it should be.”

He said the factors underlying this ethnic disparity in offending, including housing and education, are largely beyond the control of the police who “simply have to deal with the murder” in front of them, regardless of the race of victim or perpetrator.

Citing findings by Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in his 2020 programme, “Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True,” Neville said that different ethnicities do commit different crimes.

“We can’t keep putting our head in the sand about this,” he said.

He called for a fairer, more realistic examination of how the police stop and search power is being used.

“Let’s see both sides of the argument, let’s be fair,” he said. “Yes, if people are being stopped and searched unfairly, that’s not right, but let’s look at the crime patterns.”

The HMICFRS report stated that "over 35 years on from the introduction of stop and search legislation, no force fully understands the impact of the use of these powers. Disproportionality persists and no force can satisfactorily explain why."
It said that the reasons given by police were not supported by sufficient evidence.

Political Posturing

Neville criticized past posturing over stop and search by politicians from both sides of the political spectrum.

“It’s a scandal really that people virtue signal—try and score political points,” he said.

“And we see the results—literally that is more dead young black men. It’s awful, it's a waste of life, and it's shameful.”

“What do people prefer, particularly young black men?” he asked.

“Do they prefer the police’s hands occasionally in their pockets or do they prefer a knife in their belly?”

According to the latest Home Office data (pdf), over 60 percent of stop and searches are for suspicion of drug possession, followed by 16 percent for suspicion of carrying an offensive weapon. Almost half of all stop and searches for the year ending March 2020 occurred in London.

Amanda Pearson, stop and search lead and deputy assistant commissioner of the National Police Chiefs' Council, told The Epoch Times in a statement that "stop and search is a valuable policing tool.”

She said the power had enabled the removal of weapons from the streets as well as the disruption of drug markets.

It has also helped “identify young people in need of safeguarding and diversion away from crime,” she said.

“We hold the power of stop and search on behalf of the public, so it is vital our communities have confidence in the way it is used and that officers have the confidence to use it effectively and appropriately.”

The HMICFRS did not respond to a request for comment.