Hated Home Secretary Priti Patel is handing back police stop and search powers taken away by her Tory predecessor Theresa May. And she’s expanding them so even more people face the humiliation of being searched on the street for no reason. It’s part of an ongoing attempt to criminalise protest and black people in particular. That means even more repressive legislation is coming, and so is the implementation of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
Patel this week announced permanent changes to use of the notorious Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Existing rules give police the right to search people without reasonable grounds in a particular area when a senior officer says serious violence is expected.
But that has now changed. After Patel’s announcement even a low ranking police inspector can declare that serious violence “may” occur and that will be enough to declare a Section 60 area. The changes also extend the length of time the powers can be in force from 15 to 24 hours—and they can now be extended to 48 hours instead of the previous 39.
The Tories say that changing the rules is essential to prevent gun and knife crime. But the government’s own data shows that’s not true. Some 99 percent of Section 60 stop and searches do not find weapons. The blanket nature of the power means thousands of innocent people are being searched every year. In the year ending 31 March 2020, just 698 arrests were made as the result of 18,081 searches. That’s an arrest rate of just 4 percent.
The government’s own study of a police operation where use of section 60 was increased nine-fold found “no statistically significant crime-reducing effect from the large increase in weapons searches.”
Section 60 does not cut knife crime, but it does increase racism. Black people are 18 times more likely to face stop and search under Section 60 rules. The reality of terrifying and constant police searches was detailed in a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) earlier this year. A black teenager told the IOPC that he had been searched more than 60 times in just two years. Another 14 year old detailed how the police handcuffed them as they walked through a cemetery.
The move to expand Section 60 comes amid growing anger at police over the use of stop and search on children. The “Child Q” case of a girl stripped searched by police in her east London school has led to many more similar stories emerging.
Next month the Stand Up To Racism campaign organisation is organising a conference called, “After Child Q, Racist Police Out Of Our Schools”. It aims to bring together pupils, parents and anti-racist campaigners to launch a campaign against racist policing. Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, said, “Our civil rights are being eroded and thrown in the bin by Priti Patel.”
He is right. We must build more resistance to the cops’ racism.
After Child Q, Racist Police Out Of Our Schools conference. Saturday 11 June, 11am -5pm, Stoke Newington School, London N16 9EX. For details see standuptoracism.org.uk
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