Police stop and search a protester in the Westminster area. Photo: Getty Images
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The Met has three tests to pass on Stop and Search

Tessa Jowell and Doreen Lawrence write on what the Met can do to ensure Stop and Search works for everyone. 

Two weeks ago, Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe announced plans to increase the amount of targeted Stop and Search activity in London. While nearly everyone recognises that Stop and Search is an important tool for police officers to fight crime and reassure the public, it’s also clear that - when the power is not used properly - it can undermine trust in the police.

The overall use of Stop and Search in London has fallen under the current Met Commissioner. That is recognised as a good thing by young people in London, and has gone some way to improving relations between the police and black and minority ethnic communities. But following the Commissioner’s latest announcement, the Met must improve the way in which it uses its powers so as not to provoke mistrust between communities and the police.

For the last six months we have been speaking to young people in London affected by Stop and Search, either personally or through their friends and family. Together, we have published a report which makes three key demands of the Metropolitan Police. These demands are designed to ensure that Stop and Search is used in a way which builds, rather than undermines, confidence and trust between young people and the police. And remember – everyone benefits from increased trust, the police just as much as the public.

The first demand is about the use of body-worn cameras. The Met is rolling out the use of these cameras over the summer. Used properly, they could be a means not just of fighting crime but also of improving police accountability. But if they are not used properly it will undermine trust.

The Met must be clear that these cameras will prevent crime and serve citizens. There is no room for complacency. If the cameras are seen as just another tool in the armoury of the police, then they will do nothing to improve community relations.  Rather, they will erode trust and undermine police effectiveness. Officers must be required to record continuously all interactions that they have with the public during Stop and Search and Stop and Account. The Met have not yet published full guidelines on how and when body-worn cameras are to be used, potentially leaving this to the discretion of individual police officers.

Secondly, the Met must take immediate action to investigate and address the inconsistent use of Stop and Search slips. These slips – which are supposed to be issued for every Stop and Search as an official record of the police offer’s interaction with the individual – are not currently being issued properly. The young people we spoke to frequently pointed out that slips were not always offered after a stop. This makes it harder for people to prove they were stopped or to make a complaint.

Finally, it is only through independence in the training of police officers that the Met can prevent a culture of complacency and antagonism of young people. The Met should open up the way in which police officers are trained, ensuring it involves communities, and particularly young people, in design and delivery. And training should be overseen by an independent training provider, not just delivered in-house.

There is more that should be done. We need an increase in black and minority ethnic representation in the Met. For people to trust an institution or organisation, they need to feel that it represents them, that it looks like them. But currently, 40 per cent of Londoners are black and ethnic minority compared to just 15 per cent of police officers. The Met must more accurately reflect the population of London.

We need to keep a permanent watching eye on police and community relations through an annual review. And we should have a real, community-led Know Your Rights campaign which uses all mediums to make sure young people are aware of their rights.

Above all, we need the Met and City Hall to maintain an unflinching focus on building trust and respect. The pressures of fighting crime should never lead to a situation where the police are seen to be outside of the community. They must police communities with consent – by, of, for and with the people. We want to see the Met put trust and respect at the heart of their use of Stop and Search.

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After the “Tatler Tory” bullying scandal, we must ask: what is the point of party youth wings?

A zealous desire for ideological purity, the influence of TV shows like House of Cards and a gossip mill ever-hungry for content means that the youth wings of political parties can be extremely toxic places.

If you wander around Westminster these days, it feels like you’re stepping into a particularly well-informed crèche. Everyone looks about 13; no one has ever had a job outside the party they are working for. Most of them are working for an absolute pittance, affordable only because Mummy and Daddy are happy to indulge junior’s political ambitions.

It’s this weird world of parliament being dominated by under 25s that means the Tory youth wing bullying scandal is more than just a tragic tale. If you haven’t followed it, it’s one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever read; a tale of thirty-something, emotionally-stunted nonentities throwing their weight around at kids – and a promising, bright young man has died as a result of it.

One of the most depressing things was that the stakes were so incredibly low. People inside RoadTrip 2015 (the campaigning organisation at the centre of the scandal) cultivated the idea that they were powerbrokers, that jumping on a RoadTrip bus was a vital precondition to getting a job at central office and eventually a safe seat, yet the truth was nothing of the sort.

While it’s an extreme example, I’m sure it happens in every political party all around the world – I’ve certainly seen similar spectacles in both the campus wings of the Democrats and Republicans in the US, and if Twitter is anything to go by, young Labour supporters are currently locked in a brutal battle over who is loyal to the party, and who is a crypto-Blairite who can “fuck off and join the Tories”. 

If you spend much time around these young politicians, you’ll often hear truly outrageous views, expressed with all the absolute certainty of someone who knows nothing and wants to show off how ideologically pure they are. This vein of idiocy is exactly where nightmarish incidents like the notorious “Hang Mandela” T-shirts of the 1980s come from.

When these views have the backing of an official party organisation, it becomes easy for them to become an embarrassment. Even though the shameful Mandela episode was 30 years ago and perpetrated by a tiny splinter group, it’s still waved as a bloody shirt at Tory candidates even now.

There’s also a level of weirdness and unreality around people who get obsessed with politics at about 16, where they start to view everything through an ideological lens. I remember going to a young LGBT Republican film screening of Billy Elliot, which began with an introduction about how the film was a tribute to Reagan and Thatcher’s economics, because without the mines closing, young gay men would never found themselves through dance. Well, I suppose it’s one interpretation, but it’s not what I took away from the film.

The inexperience of youth also leads to people in politics making decisions based on things they’ve watched on TV, rather than any life experience. Ask any young politician their favourite TV show, and I guarantee they’ll come back with House of Cards or The Thick of It. Like young traders who are obsessed with Wolf of Wall Street, they don’t see that all the characters in these shows are horrific grotesques, and the tactics of these shows get deployed in real life – especially when you stir in a healthy dose of immature high school social climbing.

In this democratised world of everyone having the ear of the political gossip sites that can make or break reputations, some get their taste for mudslinging early. I was shocked when a young Tory staffer told me “it’s always so upsetting when you find out it’s one of your friends who has briefed against you”. 

Anecdotes aside, the fact that the youth wings of our political parties are overrun with oddballs genuinely worries me. The RoadTrip scandal shows us where this brutal, bitchy cannibalistic atmosphere ends up.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.