Scotland

Police more likely to search non-whites, report says

Police officer searching man Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Changes to police stop-and-search practices were introduced in May

Non-whites in Scotland are far more likely to be searched by police, a new report suggests.

The data found Gypsy travellers were five times more likely to be searched, while black people were twice as likely to be targeted compared to whites.

The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research report referred to police activity in 2016.

The data predated changes to stop-and-search practices by police, introduced on 11 May this year.

A new code of practice was introduced following concerns over the number of people being searched without a legal basis.

The code stated that statutory searches had to be "necessary, proportionate and in accordance with the law". Non-statutory or "consensual" stop-and-searches were banned entirely.

Dramatic fall

Professor Susan McVie, who helped author the Police Scotland-commissioned report, told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that since the new code was introduced there had been a dramatic fall in the number of searches being carried out by police.

However, she added: "We were looking at age, sex and ethnicity as three areas of protected characteristics that obviously it's very important to be mindful of when stopping and searching, that we don't want to see any disproportionality in searching for those groups.

"When we look at the figures at a national level for ethnicity, we did find higher rates of searches overall for those from non-white backgrounds, particularly amongst those who classified as other ethnic groups, which did include Gypsy travellers amongst many others."

Prof McVie said that while the number of searches carried out on people from non-white ethnic backgrounds was small, the data was designed to give the force a "baseline" figure on the issue of stop-and-search.

'Core values'

She also said that areas, including parts of Greater Glasgow, had higher levels of stop-and-search on ethnic minorities.

She added: "What we're urging Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to do is to monitor these figures and to feed back from police officers themselves around why it might be that in particular localities we see a difference."

Police Scotland said it welcomed the scrutiny from the report. Supt Andy McKay said: "Police Scotland is committed to ensuring that all stop and search activity is carried out in a lawful, proportionate, justifiable and accountable manner and officers will treat members of the public in keeping with Police Scotland's core values of fairness, integrity, respect.

"Stop and search is intelligence-led and a valuable policing tactic which contributes to the prevention, investigation and detection of crime while at the same time keeping people safe and improving community well-being.

"We acknowledge the observations made in the report regarding the monitoring of stop search activity in terms of protected characteristics, which we will be taking forward as we continue to develop our recording methodology in support of the Code of Practice."

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