Black people three times as likely to be stopped and searched by Bedfordshire Police

Runnymede Trust warns the power is being used to disproportionately target the black community

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 29th October 2020, 4:59 pm

Black people in Bedfordshire are three times as likely as white people to be stopped and searched by police, new figures reveal.

Home Office data shows officers in Bedfordshire carried out 3,476 stop and searches in the year to March – up from 2,274 the year before.

Bedfordshire Police had the lowest stop and search rate per 1,000 of members of the black community of all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Police

Using population estimates for the area, the figures show 8.8 per 1,000 black people were stopped, compared to just three per 1,000 white people. This means black people were 2.9 times as likely to be subjected to a stop and search.

Similarly, 6.8 out of 1,000 people across all BAME groups were stopped, making them twice as likely as white people. These only apply to cases where the suspect's ethnicity was recorded, which was done in the majority (74%) of instances.

The power to stop and search is permitted under section one of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, allowing police to search people and vehicles for things like drugs or a weapon without a warrant.

Across England and Wales, police stopped 54 per 1,000 black people in 2019-20 – compared to a rate of just six per 1,000 white people.

This means they were 8.9 times as likely to be stopped, though this was down slightly from 9.7 the year before.

With the highest number of stop and searches used across England and Wales for seven years, the Runnymede Trust warned the power is being used to disproportionately target the black community.

Alba Kapoor, policy officer at the Runnymede Trust said: “We are clear that these powers are not fit for purpose, discriminatory and hugely damaging to BME communities.

“For as long as stop and search exists in its current form it will cause ongoing discrimination of BME communities at the hands of the police."

Police forces across England and Wales carried out the highest number of stop and searches in seven years, with the figure rising by more than 50% in 12 months to 558,973.

This is the most since 2013-14, despite data from Greater Manchester Police not being included because of ongoing technology problems.

The Home Office report said the Metropolitan Police in London accounted for half of the increase in the number of stops and searches in the latest year.

In Bedfordshire, most (68%) searches by police were looking for drugs with a further 15% for offensive weapons.

Superintendent Ian Taylor, the force lead for stop and search, said: “The latest national statistics on gov.uk show that Bedfordshire had the lowest stop and search rate per 1,000 of members of the black community of all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

“Our disproportionality rate of searches of this community compared to the general population was also the lowest among all police forces.

“Policing nationally recognises the challenges it faces around building trust and confidence with black communities, which are issues we are not immune from here in Bedfordshire.

“I am proud of the work we do around stop and search as a police force, including regularly reviewing and considering our proportionality rates through internal and external scrutiny.

“This includes our independent stop and search scrutiny panel, which gives independent oversight of this data and has been recognised nationally as an example of best practice, as well as our recent community stop and search meetings.

“This gave the wider community the chance to discuss how we are using stop and search, an approach we are also replicating with young people working alongside our partnership agencies.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for stop and search, Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock, said the power is an "important tool" to stop crime, and was responsible for the removal of 11,000 knives, firearms and other weapons from the streets last year.

He added: “The issue of disparity of stop and search amongst people from non-white and minority backgrounds continues to be an important issue which needs addressing.

"I welcome the decrease in the disparity faced by people from these backgrounds in the use of stop and search which I believe follows increased efforts from police forces to demonstrate transparency in the way in which these powers are used."

The Home Office said no-one should be targeted because of their race and they continue to work with the police to ensure the power is used lawfully, proportionately and led by intelligence.