April 22nd is Stephen Lawrence Day, set up in memory of a young man who was murdered in a racially-motivated attack in 1993.
The killers were racist thugs but, significantly, the investigation by the Metropolitan Police was so badly run that the Macpherson Inquiry was ordered and found the police force to be institutionally racist.
For some people, this was news.
For millions of others, it was a harsh reality that the police force could not be relied upon to protect them.
Changes were promised, some delivered and some not. Today, as well as remembering the legacy of Stephen and his brave family, we have to ask if there is still more work to be done.
The need to re-establish trust between minority ethnic communities and the police is paramount… seeking to achieve trust and confidence through a demonstration of fairness will not in itself be sufficient. It must be accompanied by a vigorous pursuit of openness and accountabilitySir William Macpherson
Stop And Search is a controversial method used by police officers, including West Midlands Police here in Handsworth. It gives police officers the rights to stop anyone, sometimes even without suspicion, to stop anyone. The Equality Act 2010 means that a person cannot be stopped on grounds of their race, nationality or ethnicity, but is that working out?
West Midlands Police publish records of their use of Stop and Search, which you can view here.
We see that over a four-month period of October 2021 to January this year, West Midlands Police conducted 9,696 Stop and Search operations. Out of all of those searches, just over 2,000 resulted in action. Pretty much 1 in 5.
So 4 out of 5 incidents of Stop and Search, nothing was found and there was no further action.
And who is being subject to Stop and Search?
|Ethnicity||Stop and Search per 1,000 population|
|Asian / Asian British||4.216|
|Black / Black British||8.411|
Black and Black British people are nearly five times more likely to be subject to Stop and Search than white people, Asian and Asian British people 2.5 times more likely to be stopped, despite being much smaller populations than white people.
We have to ask the impact of this apparent disparity. How can West Midlands Police demonstrate “fairness… openness and accountability” when there is such an obvious inequality between your ethnicity and your likelihood of being stopped and searched?
We have to ask what is the benefit of Stop and Search when four times out of five there is no action?
The Independent Office for Police Conduct – the police watchdog – has said that the use Stop and Search shows racial bias, and that forces must “safeguard people from a black, Asian or other minority ethnic background from being stopped and searched because of decision-making based upon assumptions, stereotypes and racial bias” (Source: Guardian newspaper, 20.Apr.2022. Link here.)
I will be writing to our Police and Crime Commissioner, Chief Inspector and political leaders to ask how they intend to resolve this inequality. If elected this year, I can hold them to greater account. We cannot simply accept that this is the way things are.
Meanwhile, the family of Stephen Lawrence are left building a legacy for him that he was unable to make for himself, and they are doing great things. The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation is turning an awful experience into a positive influence, working with schools and groups around the UK, through social action, through education and creativity. Please visit stephenlawrenceday.org to find out more.
(As with all my blog posts, the above constitutes my view and not necessarily the formal position of The Green Party. That’s OK though, we’re a very broad-minded group of people and we are allowed to be quite independent! We are committed to making all of our police forces anti-racist. You can read more about Green Party policy on policing and crime here.
One thought on “Stephen Lawrence Day”
I think that one answer to your questions is to ask firstly of each community how acceptable a career in the police is, what they think the police are for and what they do, and to then get figures on how they are represented at intake and plus 2, 5, 10 years.
This week the acting head of the Metropolitan police agreed that we cannot talk of a few bad apples but that widespread change is needed.
Policy change is one thing, but cultural change develops from the inside and can be really hard work. Those who are doing it need the approval, acceptance and support of their starting communities as they become part of another and seek to change it for the better.