Tucked away in a corner of the London Evening Standard on 7 October was a tiny article announcing the revival of stop-and-search. The use of this police power declined considerably in London after the Macpherson report stated that it was used disproportionately against blacks. Now, the Metropolitan Police is going back to the bad old days.
We who live in black communities know that stop-and-search can transform a quiet street into a location for violent confrontation. But in March, the Voice, the newspaper of the black community, called for more stop-and-search. It was needed, the paper said, to curb a rise in street crime. The idea was widely condemned, particularly on black radio stations. But David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, always on the lookout for allies, called in Voice journalists for tea, unaware, as he always is, of the community's response.
He told them that he was in agreement, and that police officers would issue tickets produced by hand-held computers and recording personal details, including the race, of those stopped. This would supposedly provide safeguards against the victimisation of blacks.
The Standard reported that the idea came from Lord Harris, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority. But Blunkett is using the authority as political cover. The Standard quoted Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone's adviser on race relations: "What came out of consultations is that the black community agrees the Met should have the power to stop and search but should be limited and accountable by issuing tickets."
What consultations? I have tried to find out when and where they took place. I asked 16 parents in Brixton - not one knew of or took part in any consultation whatsoever. Community police officers knew nothing. Seven social workers pleaded ignorance. The Voice newspaper could not say how, when or where. Regulars at my two local pubs had heard nothing.These consultations must have taken place behind bolted oak doors.
Jasper must explain how he came to get the agreement of the black community. The most violent passions are at large among young blacks in the inner city. They have been building up over the past five years or so. It is a social and political matter. It will not be solved by police with hand-held computers or by cries for law and order.