Over the last few weeks and months, we have seen a lot of articles being written and stories being shared about the perceived ‘pros and cons’ of stop and search.
Many of these articles have been written by individuals who have never spent a single day in uniform, responding to the aftermath of violent crime.
In particular, some MPs seem to have made it their mission to understate the many positive outcomes which have come about as a direct result of stop and search.
As someone who spent several years on the front line of policing when I was a police officer on a 999 response team in Tower Hamlets, I must have stopped and searched hundreds of people of all skin colours from all backgrounds.
Some anti-stop and search commentators – many of whom have never served in the police – assert that stop and search is ‘racist’.
However, in my nine years of service in the Met Police, not once did I ever hear a fellow officer say: ‘Let’s stop that person because of the colour of his/her skin’.
Speaking from my own experience, I would stop and search someone based on a collective, aggregate, rationale and reasoning of the following points, attributes and conditions:
- is the person in an area that is well known for gang activity
- is the person in an area that is well known for violent crime
- is the person trying to avoid any eye contact with the police
- is the person known to the police for carrying a weapon
- is the person known to the police for being affiliated to any gang
- is the person known to the police for violent offences
- is the person trying to avoid the presence of the police
- does the person match a description of a suspect that has been given to the police by an informant
- is the person loitering in an area that is known for high levels of street crime
- is the person trying to conceal something about their person
- does the person match the description of someone who was in the shift briefing who, according to information supplied by the public, is believed to have an offensive weapon
- is the person giving off subtle nuances which, in my experience, means that they are trying to hide something
As you can see, this list, although not exhaustive, does not include: ‘what skin colour is the person’ because no officer in their right mind is ever going to stop someone merely because of the colour of their skin, despite what some sections of the mainstream media would have you believe.
Stop and search is as much ‘reactionary’ as it is ‘proactive’.
Here at Emergency Services News, we are also noticing that some prominent voices are citing the ‘success rate’ of stop and search as a reason as to why stop and search ‘does not work’.
Often, these well-known individuals will use the ‘arrest rate’ figure as a ‘key performance indicator’ of stop and search.
But this argument is completely missing, whether intentional or otherwise, the straightforward fact that stop and search is as much as a deterrent to someone who is thinking about carrying a knife as it is a means of finding someone who is in possession of a knife.
The more likelihood there is that you will be stopped and searched, then the less chance there is that you will carry a knife.
This is why so many gang members now hide their weapons in public areas rather than carrying one about their person.
So next time you hear someone citing the ‘arrest rate’ of stop and search and using this figure to talk down stop and search, then remember to point out to them that stop and search is as much a deterrent method as it is a detection method.
When we have the parents of someone who has been murdered on the streets calling for more stop and search, then it is my own opinion that we should be listening to them rather than the ‘point scoring’ voices who seem to want to call for an end to stop and search.
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