The Home Office is running a consultation on stop and search powers. You can get involved by filling in the online form here. Yes, I am inciting you to engage with the government. I participated. I didn’t even swear. Here’s my responses.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that the use of police powers of stop and search is effective in preventing and detecting crime and anti-social behaviour?
Recent data show that stop and search has a 9% arrest rate, which suggests that the overwhelming majority of stop and searches have no ability whatsoever to detect crime and anti-social behaviour. Furthermore, as I understand it, stop and search powers were granted to stop crime rather than anti-social behaviour so I fail to understand why you have included it in this question.
What are, in your view, the types of crime and anti-social behaviour that can be tackled effectively through the application of stop and search powers? Please give reasons.
This provocative tactic does nothing to alleviate problems caused by social conditions which are often constructed by the privileged as “crime and antisocial behaviour”. In fact, it may exacerbate these conditions.
To what extent do you agree that the arrest rate following stop and search events is a useful measure of the power’s effectiveness? (please select one)
Neither agree nor disagree.
It is abundantly clear this question was included to merely attempt to smooth over the fact that stop and searches very seldom result in an arrest, a major indicator of their ineffectiveness. However, it is also true that there are less tangible consequences of stop and search, which also point to how utterly damaging this tactic is: for example, many people who participated in the riots considered police stop and search to be a provocation and incitement, and how many people, particularly people of colour, who view stop and search powers to be abused to harass and intimidate them.
In your view, what other things, beyond the number of resulting arrests, should be considered when assessing how effective the powers of stop and search are? Please give reasons.
The impact on communities of stop and search should be considered, in particular racial harassment perpetrated by a predominantly white and institutionally racist police force.
(re: section 1 and section 23) Q5.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that the ‘with reasonable grounds’ stop and search powers, described in the paragraphs above, are used by police in a way which effectively balances public protection with individual freedoms? (please select one)
“Reasonable grounds” needs to be clearly-defined, as at present it appears to be merely applied to groups of people who are already on the receiving end of harassment by police. It ought to be specified. As it is currently defined, it is left up to the judgment of the institutionally racist police force.
(re section 60) Q6.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that the ‘without reasonable grounds’ stop and search powers described in the paragraphs above are used by police in a way which effectively balances public protection with individual freedoms? (please select one)
Once again, this “reasonable grounds” must be specified. Furthermore, it is concerning how frequently section 60s are imposed in situations wherein people are dissenting against the state, giving the appearance that they are merely used to quash criticism.
To what extent do you agree that it is right that the police are under a national requirement to record the information set out above in respect of each stop and search? (please select one)
If anything, the police must be required to go further in setting out their reasons for conducting the stop and search, going into detail as to why they chose to target that specific individual. It ought to be a time-consuming process in order to discourage police from abusing their power.
It is also important that the confidentiality of people who are stop and searched is maintained, and therefore it is important that police conducting stop and searches are honest that people are not required to give names or identifying details. At present, they often lie about this, which can be seen as a method of surveillance.
In your view, should government require police forces to record stop and search events in a certain way (for example, using particular technology) or are individual forces better placed to make this decision? Please give reasons.
As described above, police should be required to give exhaustive reasoning every time they are tempted to conduct a stop and search to discourage abuse of power. Use of technology would be unwelcome, however, as this would further contribute to the view that they are using stop and search as an elaborate data-gathering exercise.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “I am confident that the police use stop and search powers fairly to prevent and detect crime and anti-social behaviour?” (please select one)
Given the discrepancy of how many people of colour are searched compared to how many white people are searched, it would appear that stop and search powers are racially-motivated. Furthermore, section 60 powers appear to be used largely to harass dissenters rather than prevent crime. They appear to be provocative rather than preventive.
What would give you greater confidence in the police’s use of stop and search powers? Please give reasons.
If they stopped using them, as apparently they cannot be trusted with this power.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that the current requirement to explain the reasons for the stop and search make the use of the power more fair and transparent? (please select one)
As operationalised, police fail to give adequate explanation and also fail to inform citizens of their rights in the face of these searches. Many citizens emerge from stop and searches none the wiser as to why they were targeted and with the strong suspicion they were chosen because the police had taken against them.
Before today, had you heard of the police.uk website? (please select one)
To what extent do you agree or disagree that police.uk should contain information on stop and search in your local area? (please select one)
The site should contain data on how many people were stop and searched, and how many of these stop and searches resulted in a complete lack of finding anything, so that citizens have better information to make up their own minds about how ineffective at its stated purpose stop and search power is. Broken down at a local level, citizens may also be able to see trends in why searches are conducted in their area and who is targeted and draw conclusions about any possible racial bias.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that local communities should have direct involvement in deciding how the police use their stop and search powers? (please select one)
Neither agree nor disagree
It is an unfortunate fact of life that those who are more likely to participate in such civic processes are also those who are least affected by police violence. I agree that those who are most likely to find themselves victims of the police should have a greater say, but in practice, it is likely that it will merely be white middle-class people making these decisions with no knowledge of the realities of how the police behave towards people who are not like them.
In your view, how might local communities be directly involved in decisions concerning the use of stop and search powers? Please give reasons.
In general, the police must be held to account better. It can take decades for accountability to happen through the IPCC: the process is repeatedly stalled and shrouded in secrecy. This must change in order to give communities the ability to get better involved in decisionmaking.
Are there are any other views or comments that you would like to add in relation to stop and search powers that were not covered by the other questions in this consultation?
Ask yourselves: why do so many people think that all coppers are bastards?