Police monitor racism issue

BLACK and ethnic minorities are now NINE times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in Suffolk than white people, new figures have shown today.

BLACK and ethnic minorities are now NINE times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in Suffolk than white people, new figures have shown today.

Suffolk Police Authority figures for 2003/2004 also show they are almost ten times more likely to be arrested – and once arrested much more likely than white people to be charged rather than just let off with a caution.

And there has been a rise in the number of racist incidents reported to police from 345 in 2002/2003 to 409 in 2003/2004 – an increase of 18.5 per cent.

The new figures are due to be discussed at a meeting of the authority's Equal Opportunities and Diversity Committee on October 1.

The committee is due to discuss what it describes as: "significant differences in the treatment of white and ethnic minority communities within the criminal justice system".

"People from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities are more likely than the white population to be stopped and searched, arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned," a report to the committee states.

Most Read

"It is clearly important to understand the processes that lead to these patterns of disproportionality to guard against, and correct for, discrimination and to improve confidence in the criminal justice system."

However, the report was depressingly familiar to Hamil Clarke, chairman of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE).

"I know there is an element of racism in the criminal justice system, and I think there always will be.

"Black people are pigeon-holed by the police. This has been going on for 25 or 30 years.

"As long as police officers and magistrates come from ordinary communities they will come with prejudices – we all have them.

"But the system needs to weed out those who come with too much."

The report details how in 2003/2004 211 black people were stopped and searched compared to 181 in 2002/2003 – making them nine times more likely to be stopped in the past year than white people, compared to between 3 and 4 times more likely the year before.

It also shows that after arrest 29pc of white people received only a caution while for black people that fell to just 10pc.

However, the report highlights positive work being done through the Our Communities Speak consultation scheme – which began in Ipswich and could be rolled out across Suffolk. And an event in June called Let's Talk – Your Rights in which refugees and asylum seekers' concerns were listened to.

Suffolk Constabulary has also formed a working group to make sure officers record and monitor stop and searches.

Greater attendance at community events, documents translated into more languages and more encouragement to report racist incidents are also cited as positive steps by the authority.

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

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

Also numbers of black and ethnic minorities employed by Suffolk Police Authrity has risen over the last two years from 32 to 48 – making up just over 2pc of total staff.

Mr Clarke welcomed the initiatives and increase in the number of black employees of the police authority.

"The initiatives are positive and they need time to work, but we don't want to give them too much time."

What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter