Concern over police search figures

PEOPLE from black and ethnic minority backgrounds are three times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police in Suffolk, new figures reveal today.

PEOPLE from black and ethnic minority backgrounds are three times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police in Suffolk, new figures reveal today.

Suffolk Police carried out 3,444 stop and search procedures during 2003/2004 and 8.1 per cent of those searches were on people from black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds.

Figures gathered by the Evening Star also show that people from BME backgrounds are now more likely to be stopped by the police than they were during the previous year.

In 2002/2003, a total of 3,969 people were stopped and searched, and at that time, people from BME backgrounds were only twice as likely to be searched by Suffolk Police.


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During 2002/2003, white people made up 3,753 of those searches and ethnic minorities 216.

In 2003/2004 3,164 white people were stopped and 280 people from ethnic minority backgrounds stopped.

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The revelations of the increase coincided with the release of a police leaflet explaining the laws which allow them to stop and search people.

Revised powers now recommend each person stopped is asked to classify their own ethnicity rather than police doing so.

Stop and search came under fire in 2001 after it was revealed that nationally, black people were five times more likely to be stopped by police than white people.

By 2002, that figure had risen to eight times more likely.

The Commission for Racial Equality says the fact that people from BME backgrounds are more likely to be stopped and searched has led to a loss of confidence in the police nationally.

A spokesman for the commission said: "Latest figures provide yet more evidence of the impact that stop and search is having on community relations.

"Though a necessary tool for combating crime, the current levels of disproportionality…appear to be unjustifiable.

"This has led to the perception among some communities that stop and search is being used in a discriminatory way - affecting confidence levels in the police and in some cases reducing the willingness of people to assist with the investigation of crime."

Suffolk Police Authority says that it is working to restore the balance to stop and searches and has established a Stop and Search Working Group to look into the situation.

The authority's vice chairman Graham Manuel said: "This is being constantly reviewed. We're not at all complacent about it."

He added: "There's quite a bit of work going on in order to help everyone understand what the issues are."

Suffolk Police hopes that by asking people to classify their own ethnicity, it will ensure information about those stopped is gathered correctly and can be used to monitor the searches that are made.

Suffolk Police Authority chairwoman Christine Laverock said: "Both the Authority and Suffolk Constabulary are committed to dealing fairly with all sections of the community – and are determined to further increase trust and confidence in policing."

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