Top London police officers, a Haringey community consultant and a human rights lawyer visited over 150 students at CONEL on 2 May to talk about the way in which ‘stop and search’ is used in policing, and how it affects young black people in particular.
Three times more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts, the police officers argued the figures were the result of a complex picture and not proof of discrimination in themselves, despite questions from some CONEL students which suggested the contrary.
Urged towards positive action, the panel chaired by Reverend Nims Obunge, encouraged the young students to take part in the local scrutiny groups assessing the implementation of ‘stop and search’.
Defending ‘stop and search’ as essential for effective policing if used properly, senior ranking officers included: Commander Neil Jerome, Metropolitan Police Service Lead for Stop and Search; Helen Millichap, Haringey Borough Commander and Inspector Tim Tubbs, British Transport Police.
Commander Jerome said: “I want to move to a situation where all officers wear body worn video cameras while on duty so that we have an impartial record and can analyse how the ‘stop and search’ was carried out, ensuring that the dignity of all is preserved throughout. Stop and search needs to be fair and effective.”
Haringey Borough Commander, Helen Millichap explained that the police service is committed to the use of ‘stop and search’ as it is a useful policing tool, but emphasised that it has to be fair and proportionate.
She said: “Every ‘stop and search’ that takes a knife away is a life saved and police officers are motivated to make our communities safer.” She went on to say that the broader solution to the problem of carrying knives has to be tackled at a community level, as well as in schools.
Inspector Tim Tubbs said the number of black people involved in ‘stop and search’ was two in ten for the British Transport Police, which was a representative reflection of the ethnic make-up of people using the transport network.
Based at Euston station, Inspector Tubbs told the gathering that he personally reviews every ‘stop and search’ at Euston and other inspectors scrutinise ‘stops and searches’ in their respective areas on the transport network.
Human rights lawyer, Simon Natas, stated that “‘stop and search’ is used by police officers too often for the wrong reasons. It is an investigative tool that should be intelligence led and based on evidence that a person may be concealing drugs or weapons.”
Public Services student Hasret Keles asked what could be done to make ‘stop and search’ fairer and her classmate Adil Xurshe asked what training is given to officers to avoid racial bias when making a ‘stop’?
In response, the Chair of the Haringey Independent Stop and Search Monitoring Group, Ken Hinds, urged the young students to make their voices heard by getting involved with scrutiny panels assessing the way in which ‘stop and search’ is carried out within their communities. His views were strongly supported by Pastor Nims and echoed by Borough Commander Millichap.
Pastor Nims ended the session by challenging the young people to take responsibility for each other and the future saying stop and search must start in homes and with their friends to ensure we reduce knives and death on our streets.
CONEL’s young public services students, many of whom want to become police officers, are already taking up opportunities to make a positive impact on what is considered to be a highly controversial policing method.
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