Socialist Worker

Stop and search: cut ‘red tape’, get more racism

Issue No. 2087

Under the guise of removing “red tape” Gordon Brown and David Cameron are competing to scrap rules brought in to stop police using their powers to racially harass black people.

Following the publication of the Macpherson Report in 1999 into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence the police were forced to file reports on their reasons for stopping and searching people in the street.

The report revealed a widespread belief among black people that they were disproportionally the victims of the policy.

New forms were brought in to enable some monitoring of who was being stopped and searched, on what grounds, and what the outcomes were.

Now even this limited safeguard is to be withdrawn, threatening a return to the days when the police could routinely harass people, without fear of being uncovered.

In the 1970s the police used their stop and search powers, known as the “sus” laws, as a form of racial harassment.

Use of the sus laws led to urban rioting by black youth throughout the early 1980s. The 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace) forced officers to have “reasonable suspicion” that an offence had been committed before conducting a search.

Yet under Pace African‑Caribbean people remained six times more likely to be searched than white people.

Overall there has been a gradual decline in the number of white people searched since 1997-98. For African-Caribbean and Asian people the numbers are broadly similar to levels recorded ten years ago.

The racism at the heart of stop and search will be further hidden by cutting down on its reporting.

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Article information

Tue 5 Feb 2008, 18:05 GMT
Issue No. 2087
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