Dawn Butler: MP calls for 'system change' after police stop

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Media caption,

Dawn Butler says the “system is currently biased against black people”

An MP has called for a "system change" after she was stopped by police while travelling in a car in east London.

Former shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler accused the Met Police of racial profiling after the stop on Sunday.

Labour MP Ms Butler told BBC Breakfast she had agreed to meet local police commanders to discuss "taking the bias out of the system".

The Met said the stop was a mistake caused by an officer incorrectly entering the car's registration number.

Ms Butler said it had been 20 years since the Macpherson Report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which described the Met Police as "institutionally racist".

"It's about time we changed the system so it works for everyone and it's effective," she said.

The MP said institutional racism was "not about saying every single police officer is racist".

"If you see black people in a car and you automatically assume that they are criminals there is a problem there," she said.

"That's why you have to address the system that is currently biased against black people."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the police should treat people with "fairness and equality".

He said: "The police have made a statement saying that they made a mistake.

"They have spoken to the occupants of the car but it's obviously very, very important that the Met continue to do everything that they can - as indeed they do - to show that they are serving every part of our country, every part of our community, with fairness and equality."

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Ms Butler said the BMW that was stopped on Sunday was being driven by a black male friend and it was pulled over by two police cars.

She said officers said the car was registered in North Yorkshire and took the keys while checking the registration.

They then admitted there had been a mistake, that it was registered to the driver and apologised, she said.

Ms Butler told the BBC: "I still don't know why they punched the number plate into the system.

"I don't know what raised their suspicion. All I know is I'm black, my friend was black and he has a fairly decent car."

In a statement, the Met said "one of the occupants" had been contacted by a senior officer and they had discussed "subsequent interaction as well as feedback regarding the stop".

It added: "We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with the occupants if they wish to do so."

The force's statement did not explain why the car registration was entered in the first place.

Image caption,
Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said checking registrations was a "routine piece of work"

Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh said checking car registrations was a "normal routine piece of work" for officers.

He told the BBC he was "very disappointed" Ms Butler had posted the video of her stop.

Mr Marsh said: "You would have thought someone in the situation she is in would try and defuse a situation rather than cause such an absolute furore."

His colleagues had "acted professionally throughout" and admitted their mistake, he added.

The Police Federation - the organisation that represents police officers across Wales and England - is calling for the body-worn camera footage from officers at the incident to be released.

Susan Hall, Conservative leader on the London Assembly, has written to the Met Police commissioner in support of releasing the police officer's footage.

Ms Hall tweeted: "If Dawn Butler wants to play politics with police officers doing their job, Londoners should have all the facts."

'Listening to concerns'

Ms Butler said she had already spoken to her local borough commander and further meetings were planned.

The MP also said stop and search needed to be revised to a system with "better outcomes", but "it's going to take an intense amount of work".

Ch Supt Roy Smith tweeted on Sunday to say he had spoken to Ms Butler and she had given "a very balanced account of the incident".

The officer said the force "are listening" to concerns she had about the stop and the officers involved.

Since raising the issue Ms Butler has been subjected to racist abuse on social media.

Image source, Dawn Butler
Image caption,
Dawn Butler filmed her discussions with the police officers who pulled her over

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said "it is imperative that the black community have trust and confidence in our police".

"All allegations of racial profiling must be taken extremely seriously by the Metropolitan Police," he added.

Sir Keir said the abuse Ms Butler had suffered on social media was "wrong and must be condemned".

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating whether officers in England and Wales racially discriminate against ethnic minority people.

BBC analysis shows that from August 2019 to July 2020 there were 101 stop and searches for every 1,000 black people in London, compared to 23.2 for every 1,000 white people and 28.7 per 1,000 Asian people.

Stop and searches by the Metropolitan Police  . Rate of incidents per 1,000 population in London in the year ending July 2020. Rate of stop and serach per 100,000
White= 2322.626889
Black= 10092.85127
Asian= 2868.147346 August 2019 to July 2020.

A police officer can legally stop any vehicle at any time. Police have the power to stop and search anyone if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe someone has been involved in a crime or is in possession of a prohibited item.

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