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How Effective Is Police Stop and Search Essay

This assessment will focus on Section 1 of The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Stop and Search powers). I will look at the use of stop and search before the Macpherson report and after the Macpherson report and compare how it has changed. The use of stop and search powers allow the police to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, and to prevent more serious crimes occurring generally in public places like a Football match. A police officer can ask what you are doing, why you’re in an area and/or where you’re going.

They also have the power to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying; illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a dangerous weapon. You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it is suspected that; serious violence could take place, you are carrying a weapon or have used one or you are in a specific location or area. However, you don’t have to answer any questions the police officer asks you.

The Police officer will note down seven details these include; Ethnicity, Objective of search, Grounds for search, Identity of the officer carrying out the stop and search, Date, Time and Place. However being searched does not mean you have been arrested, unless any of these factors apply. Sir William McPherson carried out an inquiry in 1999 following an investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The 18-year-old A-Level student was fatally stabbed in an unprovoked attack as he waited for a bus in Eltham, south London, in April 1993.

Nobody, at the time was convicted of his murder. However in 2006 the Metropolitan Police’s Acting Deputy Commissioner, ordered a cold case review that led to the convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris in 2011 they were found guilty by an Old Bailey jury after a trial based on forensic evidence. Scientists found a tiny bloodstain on Dobson’s jacket that could only have come from Mr Lawrence. They also found a single hair belonging to the teenager on Norris’s jeans. Both men have had previous run-ins with the law; Dobson was jailed for five years in 2010 for drugs trafficking.

He is among a small number of men to have been tried twice for the same crime (double jeopardy) after the Court of Appeal quashed his 1996 acquittal for the murder. Norris was convicted in 2002 of a separate allegation of racially threatening behaviour. Allegations of incompetence and racism against Metropolitan police officers that were in charge of the case sparked the original inquiry as did two internal police inquiries which acquitted the Metropolitan itself. In relation to the stop and search there is no actual change in the stop and search powers for the police.

However records of all stop and search operation have to be published, and a copy of the record can also be given to the person involved if requested therefore there can be no discriminative reason to stop someone as the police have to provide written reason to the suspect and the police force. The 1981 Brixton riots and the subsequent Scarman report were key factors in the passage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). It provides the core framework of police powers and safeguards around stop and search, arrest, detention, investigation, identification and interviewing detainees.

The aim of PACE has always been to establish a balance between the powers of the police in England and Wales and the rights of members of the public. Literature Review The immediate effect of Macpherson saw a decline in the use of stop and search. In London, stop and searches fell from 180,000 in 1999/00 to 169,000 the following year. Nationally, the number of stop and searches fell by 21% and then a further 16% from 1998 to 2000. By December 2000, representatives of rank and file officers were saying that Macpherson had damaged morale. Officers, they said, were unprepared to use stop and search out of fear of being labelled racist.

So William Hague called for there to be a rise in the use of Stop and Search. This was evident in 2001 when Mr Hague linked a rise in violent street crime in some areas to a drop in stop and searches of black people because police officers feared being called racist. However, this can be argued as many black and Asian people – including Stephen Lawrence’s father, Neville, who filed a complaint after being stopped last year – said they were still being unfairly targeted. And in January figures from the Home Office showed that the fall in searches was greatest for white suspects with black people still ive times more likely to be stopped in London than white people. The Equality Act 2010 makes it prohibited for police officers to discriminate against, harass or victimise any person in relation to ‘age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity when using their powers on the ground of ‘protected characteristics’ (Home Office 2011). This shows they have tried to control the situation of racism in the force and tried to put a stop to it.

However racism within the force goes back decades as before 1984 police were allowed to stop and search whoever they wanted therefore it became easier and more of a habit to target people who fit ‘criminal persona’. This laid back approach to stop and search caused problems because police became discriminative to the public which can be shown in the Home office statistics (Police and Criminal Evidence Act, The 1984). Research shows this is still happening today even though the Equality Act 2010 was put forward this is evident in (justice 2010). Black people are 8 per cent more likely than whites to face stop and search’.

In relation to the McPherson report the Committee said that since the introduction of the report the police have made “tremendous strides” in the service they provide to ethnic minority communities and in countering racism amongst its own workforce. This is evident in the fact that sixty-seven of Macpherson’s 70 recommendations have been implemented fully or in part in the ten years since his report was published. However the statistics show that there is still racism in the force therefore were McPhersons recommendations needed or could he have focused more on the problem in hand?

Many people see that that racist persona of the forces comes from the idea that police officers are hard, tough, and will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour. This is called cop culture which is hard to define as it has moved from discussing about one culture to discussing different cultures such as ‘subculture’, ‘street culture’, ‘patrol culture’, ‘canteen culture’ (It can be defined as where the police share the same sense of identity which evolves around work, hard play and hard drinking), ‘headquarters culture’ and the ‘cardigan squad’ (the soft and fluffy culture).

Cop culture can be seen as many different things depending on how you view the police themselves. In Britain the Scarman report in 1981 riots in Brixton was influential and raised the importance of stop and search on young black men who felt they had been unfairly targeted due to their colour. Rowe argues that while not all findings were the ‘militaristic style of policing, with poor public engagement… t established recommendations relating to policing for example on training, the role of community policing, lay visitors at police stations, discipline and stop and search’. Rowe also mentions that the recommendations mentioned in the Scarman report were reiterated in the McPherson report almost 20 years later suggests that the recommendations were not effectively implemented in the Scarman report (Rowe 2007:155).

However McPherson was more forthright using the term ‘institutional racism’ that Scarman shied away from, making the problem more visible to the public. This is evident when the metropolitan police mishandled the Stephen Lawrence case due to a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers’ (McPherson 1999). In terms of police culture, institutional racism was said to incorporate racist stereotyping of black people as potential criminals or troublemakers (McPherson 1999).

Taking this into account a racist officer can be seen as an incompetent officer as it is finding a lack of understanding of cultural diversity illustrated in the existence of cultural crisis in the metropolitan police therefore they should be retrained or dismissed. Many people of been very critical of the McPherson report one main criticism is that although McPherson made 70 much needed recommendations for the force he did little to bring justice for the family of Stephen Lawrence which was the reason he originally conducted the inquiry.

However 11 years after the inquiry was completed justice was in fact served for the Lawrence family but not due to McPherson’s recommendations. This shows the failings of which the Macpherson Report draws attention too, is in relation to the police investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence which is important, but the explanation as to how and why the problems occurred is somewhat limited which needed to be noted as well. This means that he noted the problem of racism but didn’t recommend to put the case back on retrial.

The problems identified by McPherson are not only unique to this case or other racial murders; but rather they are related to the social, legal and organisational environments in which this sort of police work should be undertaken at all times. The stop and search has been proven to be a success for the police, the power to stop and search people who they suspect of being involved in crime is an important tactic. It provides a means to confirm or allay suspicions about individuals without exercising their power of arrest.

Where the stop and search is employed appropriately and proportionately, it could increase community confidence in the police force and make a positive contribution to reducing the fear of crime. Stop and search has been very successful in relation to knife crime. For example October 2009, more than 380,000 stops and searches have been conducted; 14,700 people have been arrested; and more than 7,500 knives have been recovered. However the stop and search has seen negative attitudes in relation to law-abiding people who feel they have been unjustifiably targeted.

These people are less likely to trust the police and co-operate with them when they have a problem, therefore conducting effective policing, becomes much more difficult. There are still concerns in relation to stop and search and through this the equality and human right commissioners are continuing to monitor how the police are using their stop and search powers. They want to see: a reduction in the national figures for race disproportionality in the use of stop and search powers. A reduction in the number of excess stops and searches carried out on black and Asian people.

Also forces with high excesses, in particular the Metropolitan Police, taking action to ensure that the powers are being used in a non-discriminatory and lawful manner. They are also monitoring and concentrating on forces that currently have particularly high rates of disproportionality, in particular some southern rural forces, taking action to reduce their race disproportionality ratios. And finally the forces with race disproportionality collaborating and sharing good practice with their neighbours.

The lack of ethnic contact outside law enforcement and in the law enforcement needs a clear transformation. The criminal justice system can in no way be prejudice, discriminative, racist or sexist. They are there to keep the public safe and the public has to trust them otherwise the system would fail, the public have to be extremely open-minded. One way to do this is to focus on race awareness training for all police officers in and joining the force. However this strategy has been used before and after the Scarman report and unfortunately made little impact over the decades since.

Macpherson is aware of this but fails to adopt a more radical policy agenda directed at the structure and organisation of policing and the relationship between police and ethnic minorities in the law-enforcement situation itself therefore the race problem is still occurring. To conclude many will argue that not much is different before the McPherson report during and after. The statistics show that being of ethnic origin walking the streets you are more likely to be stopped then if you are white, this stereotype needs to be changed and then the force will be less inclined to stop people of this description with little or lack of reason.

However there has been a decline in the amount of black and Asian people stopped but also a decline in the amount of officers that use stop and search on regular basis in fear that they will be labelled a racist. The police need to find a balance between being labelled and doing their job to maximise the trust from the public and minimise fear of crime. Therefore the public and force can come together to make the community the safest place possible.


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