Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Stop and Search posted by Richard SeymourOne of the big issues for London youths is the growing use of unaccountable stop and search by the police. Offered as a solution variously to terrorism and crime, there are politicians pushing for it to be extended and for 'red tape' to be removed so that they don't have to keep any records. In the context of gun and knife crime in London, the recourse to an old method of harassment and humiliation, racist in its application, is disturbing. Some of you may recall the BBC's documentary about racism in the police, in which officers openly exulted in selecting motorists for harrassment if they looked Pakistani or if they were black. Imagine removing all accountability from stop and search, and taking away any requirement that the search is based on intelligence or reasonable suspicion. They'd be as happy as pigs in shit. And it's not just racism, it's class as well. It's the poorest who are targeted, white working class kids with no amenities left to socialise on the streets and automatically stigmatised as "teen gangs". In one 12 month period alone, 60,000 people were stopped under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Now, that's one form of stop and search, in one twelve month period, and those are the official figures. That is certainly an underestimate, because a lot of the time the police don't bother following procedures. And the idea that it has any effect on gun and knife crime at all is just implausible. It isn't just that such policies don't get to the social roots of the problem, although that is important. It is that the chances of actually finding someone with a deadly weapon using this tactic are quite low. The odds of them finding someone completely innocent of any crime and treating them like dirt are by contrast very high. What ends up happening is that young people get aggravated and get nicked, and more young people experience custody and arrest, even if they've done nothing wrong - and they don't need that. Unfortunately, the mayor has backed the stop and search policy, just as he supported the cops over Menezes. Need I even mention that Respect is standing on a very clear platform of opposition.
Ady Cousins has posted videos of last week's Respect meeting on stop and search, and I really hope to see more of these meetings across London, not least because people to know their rights and to hear from lawyers, policemen and others who know the arguments and know why the claims for stop and search are baloney. Anyway, here's a few samples: