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Improving stop and search

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17 July 2012
Improving stop and search This morning I took part in a Westminster Hall debate I organised on the use of ’stop and search’ by the Metropolitan Police. Since being elected as an MP a number of people, particularly young men and their mothers, have raised this issue with me. They often describe how they have been stopped by the police, sometimes repeatedly and how they have often felt humiliated, embarrassed and targeted. It was these experiences that led me to call for the debate, and use the opportunity to question the Minister for Policing on the Met’s approach to their use of stop and search.

The issue was fresh in my mind as I recently attended a play called ‘Stop Search’ at the Catford Broadway Theatre (photo above). Written by Dominic Taylor, a former employee of Brixton Prison and the Ministry of Justice, the performance focused on the impact the policy can have on individuals and their families. I also took part in a panel debate on the play, during which a number of contributors expressed their anxiety at the negative experiences they have had when being stopped and searched (I should also say that I have also spoken to other people who have been stopped and searched who tell me that whilst they didn’t particularly like the experience, they accept that the Police acted fairly and respectfully).

I do believe that if we are to tackle the serious problems of gun and knife crime on our streets, the police must have the power to be able to stop and search. However, when only 1 in 10 stop and searches in London results in an arrest there clearly needs to be some improvement. After hearing stories from people who feel disproportionately targeted I believe the Met’s usage can often be counter-productive and can create tension between the police and the communities they are there to serve and protect.

It is a fact that you are 37 times more likely to be stopped under a ‘Section 60′ notice if you are black than if you are white. Clearly there are also issues with the complaints procedure, in both encouraging people to file complaints when they have been treated badly and ensuring that these concerns lead to changes in police practice. Better training of police officers is also vital if people’s experiences of stop and search is to improve.

Ultimately, stop and search is an important police power. However, if we are to improve the mistrust some young people have towards the police we must improve the way the police operate when stopping and searching people on our streets.

You can read my speech in full here.

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