Stop and search changes to address concerns from black community ‘have done little’ in Hackney
- Credit: Polly Hancock
“To be honest, I’d say not much has really changed,” says Deji Adeoshun.
He’s referring to police use of stop and search compared with five years ago, when the law regarding its use was altered.
The youth leadership manager from Hackney Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) was one of five witnesses called to report to London Assembly members at City Hall on Wednesday last week.
Police are now only permitted to stop and search with reasonable grounds for suspicion. They are told they must be polite, explain to the suspect why they have been targeted, and record the exchange on body worn video cameras.
Changes were made in response to longstanding concerns that people from the black community were being demonised and disproportionately targeted.
Panelists at the Assembly described how this led to a “loss of self worth” and “feelings of powerlessness”.
But the likelihood of black people being stopped in 2018 was 4.3 times higher than white people, compared with 2.6 times more likely in 2014, according to figures from MOPAC.
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In its defence, the Met states that overall ‘positive outcomes’, whereby an offence is detected after a stop, are just about equal for both groups - that’s to say 31.5pc for black people and 31.6pc for white people.
Hackney comes bottom place in MOPAC’s latest public attitudes survey, with only 55pc of respondents agreeing that police “treat everyone fairly”. Highest is Kensington and Chelsea at 86pc.
This is troubling in terms of London’s Police and Crime Plan, which recognises policing by consent is dependent on the public’s support, and that “people who have trust and confidence in the police are more likely to cooperate with the police and comply with the law”.
Deji pointed out to the panel that a recommendation five years ago for police to be more active in the community to foster better feeling was never met.
“Actually, what we have seen is a dip,” he said.
“The police excuse is their numbers have been reduced and there are a lack of resources, so they aren’t able to engage with the community stuff.
“But it’s the community engagement that helps the policing.
“Officers are more reactive and that creates tension and so there is a lot of tension on the ground. Young people don’t feel safe.
“We all know we had a big incident with Rashan Charles in Hackney and there is that sense of: ‘Could I be next?’ Some people are asking: ‘What do I need to do to protect myself?’ The latest quote is: ‘The biggest gang is the police,’ and that’s disappointing.”
Numbers of stop and searches reduced by 42pc between 2014 and 2017, but an escalation of serious violence in late 2017 has seen a re-emergence in the use of Section 60 orders.
These allow searches to be carried out without grounds for suspicion for a limited time span, usually following a serious incident with the authorisation of a borough commander.
Hackney was subject to 12 borough-wide and 27 localised section 60 orders last year, the second highest figure in London after Newham.
Despite a feeling of “persecution” by the Met, however, panellists said a diminished police presence still made young people feel less safe.
“One young person said to me if there was rivalry between two individuals and an officer was there, nothing would happen,” said Deji. “They want to see more officers but less stop and search as well.”
The introduction of body-worn cameras has also done little to dispel criticism. In December, 93pc of stop and searches in Hackney were recorded on body-worn video cameras.
“There have been experiences where I’ve not seen the police turn it on or I’ve seen them turn it off,” Jay Bance, from City Hall’s peer outreach team, told the Assembly group.
Complaints about stop and search have decreased, but panellists report young people are worried about being victimised if they do speak out.
“Body-worn footage might help,” said Oluwatosin Adegoke from Hackney CVS’ stop and search monitoring group. “But knowing the lack of confidence, it might take them a few days or months to summon the courage to make a complaint, and at that point is the footage even available? Is it stored?”
On the whole, panellists concluded stop and search was necessary, and shouldn’t be abolished. “I’m not against the principle, but the execution,” said Oluwatosin.
Deji added: “When it’s targeted at particular groups it becomes a problem.”
Committee chair Unmesh Desai summed up: “One thing that comes up as a theme is that we need many more police, who are much more visible and embedded in the community.
“Neighbourhood policing - is that what it’s all about in the end?”