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28 July 2021

How police stop and search remains racially biased

Black British people are almost 11 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white British people.

By Nick Ferris

Boris Johnson triggered outcry this week after announcing a new crime reduction plan that includes the introduction of litter-picking “chain gangs”, and “alcohol tags” that can detect alcohol in the sweat of offenders. 

Also included is the proposed permanent relaxation of section 60 stop and search restrictions with the aim of fighting knife crime. These powers allow police to carry out searches 24 hours a day, and to do so when they believe an incident involving serious violence “may”, rather than “will”, occur. 

Black British people are almost 11 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white British people
Stop and search rate per 1,000 people, by ethnicity
Data is for the year up to March 2020

Data suggests that, if the plans are approved, ethnic minorities will be disproportionately affected. There were 563,837 stop and searches in England and Wales between April 2019 and March 2020, equivalent to 11 per 1,000 people.

But while there were just five searches per 1,000 white British people over that period, there were 54 for every 1,000 black British people – almost 11 times as many. 

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Stop and search has long been criticised for stoking community tensions while having little measurable impact on crime. The human rights organisation Liberty has said the proposed plans will “compound discrimination” in the UK, warning that the policy “marginalises minority communities, destroys their relationships with the police, and funnels young people into the criminal justice system”.