Feb 18, 2014

SSLP backs calls for government response to SnS consultation

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, launched her consultation over the use of stop-and-search in July last year following further reports of its negative effects on community relations, particularly among ethnic minorities, and the amount of police time wasted on fruitless searches.

After extending the consultation until late September it was hoped that the Home Office would publish its response by the end of 2013 recommending its use to be further reduced (Home Office figures showed it was used 1.2m times last year of which only 9% resulted in an arrest or warning) and for it to be easier to hold officers to account where its was misused (around 27% of stop-and-searches were not justified, according to a survey by the HMIC).

However, not only has there been no response to the consultation, but reports have surfaced claiming Cameron has ditched plans to reform stop-and-search over fears the party will be accused of being 'soft on crime' in the run-up to elections in May.

Given its serious negative impact on its victims, community relations and the police's ability to investigate real crime, how many more authoritative reports and documented and shocking incidents does there have to be before politicians pluck up the courage to act on the evidence?

Furthermore, the government's failure to respond and complete silence on the matter is an insult to the many community, research and advisory groups who have put so much time and effort to inform the debate in the belief they were contributing to some credible attempt at reform.

Today, Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has written to her counterpart calling on her to stand up to Cameron and push ahead with her plans.

Cooper wrote: 'This issue is too important to be kicked into the long grass. It goes to the heart of people’s trust in the police and the misuse of stop search has the potential to undermine effective community policing. I hope that you will not give in to the Prime Minister’s opposition to change.'

Of course stop-and-search has already undermined community policing, not only among young people, but also their parents and communities who witness abusive policing themselves.

But things will not get any better with the status quo and so SSLP believes a strong message from the government that calls for a serious reduction in the use of stop-and-search and the disciplining of officers who misuse it, particularly on the grounds of ethnicity, would be a significant start.

Yvette Cooper in fact calls for legislation to be passed making it illegal for officers to stop a member of the public based on the colour of their skin, a policy SSLP would support.

She wrote: 'We propose replacing the current guidance on avoiding race discrimination with legislation instead, sending a stronger message to everyone that stopping someone on the basis of the colour of their skin is illegal, discriminatory and shameful.'

SSLP supports Yvette Cooper's call for the government to push on with what it must know is right; for serious reform to stop-and-search procedures and on how officers who misuse it are held accountable.

If Cameron is concerned about being seen as soft on crime, we would like to see him being equally concerned over being seen as soft on police crimes too.

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