Following the findings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that Black and Asian people are disproportionately stopped and searched in the UK, Reverend Jesse Jackson launched StopWatch, a new action group to help tackle the issue.
Reverend Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2000.
As stated in its Triennial Review which was published in the beginning of October, the EHRC has found that despite making up between 2-3% of the population, 15% of those stopped and searched by the police are black. In addition Asian people are stopped and searched at twice the rate of white people (Ministry of Justice 2009). Given this disproportionality, stop and search tactics continue to drive a wedge between communities and the police, leading to mistrust of the police in some parts of society.
Commenting, Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, a member organisation of StopWatch, said: 'Given the government’s current review into policing in the UK, it is crucial that any reforms announced are fair and inclusive – particularly in relation to stop and search. StopWatch intends to act as a check on government as it carries out these reforms, as well as address the stark ethnic disproportionalities in stop and search'.
Ben Bowling, professor of criminology and criminal justice at King’s College London – also a member of StopWatch – said, 'The abuse of stop and search has driven a wedge between police and communities. It is often unfair and ineffective and can be counter-productive. StopWatch aims to monitor the use of stop and search powers and focus research and public policy on developing good policing. Together we can find fairer and more inclusive ways of creating a safer society'.