The uncomfortable issue of stop and search

Stop and search

When the smoke cleared from the riots triggered by Mark Duggan's shooting, uncomfortable questions for the police emerged.

The official report warned that police behaviour, particularly with stop and search had had a corrosive effect on community relations. A subsequent inquiry by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary identified an "alarming" 27% of stop and searches in which there were no reasonable grounds to conduct the search. The Home Office has since announced a consultation on reform.

There is a sense of deja vu with all this. An inquiry into the the 1981 Brixton riots blamed disproportionate use of stop and search. An independent report on Tottenham's Broadwater Farm riots in 1985 blamed racist policing. Senior officers promised improvements then... as now.

The Scotland Yard Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe has set a target to increase public confidence in the Met by 20% by 2016 and has introduced stricter criteria on the use of stop and search. However, the latest monthly figure for Tottenham and the surrounding borough finds 666 people were stopped and searched - almost double the figure two months before. It is work in progress.

That said, the buzzword in the police at the moment is "legitimacy" - an oft-stated determination that officers return to the values of Robert Peel and the principle of policing by consent.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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