Research and action for fair and accountable policing

About Twitter Instagram Facebook Donate

Stop and searches increase 50% – racial disparity remains the same

New data finds Black people stopped and searched 9 times more than White people in England and Wales

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.

You can read our thread for more information:

Police powers and procedures, England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2020 out today via @ukhomeoffice

— StopWatch UK (@StopWatchUK) October 27, 2020

More articles

Choice without information is dangerous

Kam Gill discusses the need for greater availability of data on policing in the lead up to the Police and Crime Commissioners elections in November.


StopWatch and the Open Society Justice Initiative submission to the UN Human Rights Council

StopWatch and the Open Society Justice Initiative recently submitted a contribution to the United Nations Human Rights Council review of the United Kingdom.


StopWatch launched by Rev Jesse Jackson

StopWatch was launched Monday 18 October, 2010 at King's College London where key speaker Reverend Jesse Jackson called for an end to "racial profiling" on both sides of the Atlantic.


Liberty responds to proposed PACE guidance amendment

Liberty has warned the government against draft police guidance that would allow race to be a basis for stop and search without suspicion under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.


StopWatch responds to the PACE code of practice

​StopWatch submitted a response to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice A.


Support our work

We aim to address excess and disproportionate stop and search, promote best practice and ensure fair, effective policing for all.


Sign up to our newsletter

Regular updates on our activities, noteworthy articles, and how you can get involved in our work.