IOPC research highlights concerns over ‘disproportionate’ use of stop and search

Young people and those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background feel stop and search can be “discriminatory and disproportionate” according to research by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Mar 9, 2021
By Paul Jacques

IOPC lead on discrimination Sal Naseem said while public confidence in the police was consistently high, its research shows use of stop and search was an issue that divided opinion among different age and ethnic groups.

Although most people believe the police respond in a fair and proportionate way when dealing with the public on incidents, the IOPC research suggests nearly half of those surveyed think stop and search is either not applied as it should be or is unnecessary.

The figures have been released by the IOPC following a national survey of adults across England and Wales in November 2020.

Generally, the results showed high and consistent confidence in the police’s proportionality in dealing with incidents involving members of the public. The majority of those surveyed (72 per cent) think that UK police respond in a fair and proportionate way when dealing with incidents that involve members of the public.

However, when asked specifically about use of stop and search, confidence levels fluctuated. While 80 per cent of those surveyed think stop and search is necessary, nearly half (49 per cent) think the tactic is either not applied as it should be or is unnecessary.

Mr Naseem said: “This research indicates that those aged 55-plus and those who are white tend to agree to a larger extent that stop and search is necessary and the police currently is using it in the right way.

“On the other hand, respondents from a BAME background and those aged 18 to 24 are much more likely to see stop and search as unnecessary and something that the police should stop using in their work.

“Of those respondents who felt stop and search is not applied as it should, disproportionality and lack of reasonable grounds were the key reasons selected by respondents.”

He added: “Stop and search is one of the most intrusive powers police have. There are mixed views on its effectiveness on crime rates and for young people and people from BAME backgrounds it can feel discriminatory and disproportionate.

“From our own work, we have seen the smell of cannabis as the sole grounds given for stop and search, which is not in accordance with authorised police practice. We’ve seen handcuffs used when other tactics could have de-escalated the situation and a general lack of understanding about the impact of disproportionality.

“Again, we are calling for police forces to work much more closely with and listen to these voices – does the current practice need to be changed?

“Young people and people from BAME backgrounds have lower confidence in the police – if police forces don’t start taking these concerns seriously, the effects will continue to be felt as  future generations continue to mistrust the police,” Mr Naseem said.

In 2019/20, data showed BAME people were more than four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and black people specifically were almost nine times more likely to be stopped and searched.

A report published last week by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services also called for police forces to explain the disproportionate use of police powers such as stop and search and use of force on BAME people or risk losing the trust of the communities they serve.

Last year, research commissioned by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights showed 85 per cent of black people did not believe that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police.

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