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    Stop-and-Search Practice in UK More Racially Biased Than Before – Research

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    During her time as Home Secretary, Theresa May vowed to reform the practice to make it less biased. However, now racial minorities are finding themselves targeted more than before her tenure.

    The police practice of stop-and-search (often referred to as "stop and frisk" in the US) is becoming increasingly racially biased, despite numerous pledges of reforms, says a joint report cited by the Guardian.

    The study was conducted by the London School of Economics, an activist group called the Stopwatch coalition and a center of expertise on drugs and drugs law called Release. It reports that black UK citizens are 8.4 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.

    This represents a dramatic increase since 2011, when black people were "only" six times more likely to be searched by the police, the report says.

    In 2014, then-home secretary Theresa May pledged to take measures to make the practice less biased, calling it "unfair, especially to young black men." 

    David Lammy, a Labour MP for Tottenham, called the newly-discovered figures a "profound racial injustice."

    "Grounded in the fictitious narrative that drug use is especially prevalent among black and minority ethnic groups, the current practice of stop and search entertains a racist fantasy," he said, according to Guardian.

    Some 60% of all stop and search procedures were conducted for the purpose of finding illegal drugs, the research says, adding that most of those singled out were frisked for cannabis possession. Black and Asian people were convicted of cannabis possession at 11.8 and 2.4 times the rate of white people, respectively, the research says.

    "For all the talk of knife crime, gangs and serious violence, the reality is that stop and search is still being used to over-police vulnerable communities for low-level drug possession. Studies have repeatedly shown that stop and search has no impact on knife crime and serious violence," says Michael Shiner, a co-author of the report.

    "It selectively criminalizes black people and those from other minority groups for offences that are largely ignored in other contexts. Whatever the intention might be, stop and search is a driver of discrimination," he added.

    Theresa May's measures to "reform" the stop and search practice did manage to reduce the number of overall cases by 75%, the research says, but notes that the reduction was most pronounced among white population.

    While black people are almost nine times more likely to be stopped and searched, they are also less likely to be granted an out-of-court disposal, a procedure under UK law where the authorities forgo a court trial and issue a summary fine or a warning when adjudicating crimes which aren't considered serious.

    Speaking in defense of the practice, the Home Office's spokesperson noted that latest data indicates the practice delivered the "highest ever stop-to-arrest ratio since 2014," but acknowledged that "nobody should be stopped on the basis of their race or ethnicity."

    The spokesperson also announced that the government decided to extend tackling serious violence beyond law enforcement and introduced a new "public health" approach, which involves police, education, local authority and health care professionals "being given a new legal duty to take action to prevent serious violence," the Guardian report says.

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    Tags:
    racial bias, Stop and Frisk, law enforcement, racism, UK Police, London School of Economics, Theresa May, United Kingdom
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