Home Office figures released today show that the use of stop and search powers in England and Wales increased 52% between 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020, compared with the previous year.
Of the 577,054 stops and searches in total over the period, three quarters (76%, 437,139) resulted in no further action taken, three percentage points more than in 2018/19 (73%).
The figures show the vast majority of searches under the main power (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)) were for drugs (62%). Just over a quarter of Section 1 PACE searches were for offensive weapons (16%) and stolen property (10%). The overall arrest rate declined from 16% to 13%.
These latest statistics indicate that police forces in England and Wales have still failed to tackle disproportionate rates of stop and search. Black and other minority ethnic groups continue to bear the brunt of heavy handed policing. Compared with stops of White people, the racial disparity for all stop and searches in the year ending 31 March 2020 reads as follows (illustrated):
- Black (or Black British): 8.9x
- Asian (or Asian British): 2.7x
- Other Ethnic Group: 1.3x
- Mixed: 3.3x
This is despite the evidence showing the relative ineffectiveness of stop and search in preventing serious youth violence.
Since the COVID-19 emergency powers were introduced earlier this year, police forces across the country have adopted an enforcement led – rather than public health focussed – approach to policing. Black and Asian people in England have been more likely to be fined and arrested under COVID-19 powers when compared to White people. Notably, the Metropolitan Police’s use of stop and search powers increased significantly during the pandemic, peaking at just over 43,000 searches in May.
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