Keith Jarrett, the outgoing president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), said he would be pressing police for such an approach. He said: “The black community is telling me we have to look at this.” Some senior black police officers have criticized the suggestion fearing it could lead to racial profiling. Black people are six times more likely to be stopped than white people, according to Home Office figures. This disparity has led to continued charges of police racism and critics say that increased use of stop and search tactics would inevitably affect the black community disproportionately.
‘Victims and perpetrators’
Mr Jarrett will use a speech at the NBPA’s annual conference this week to ask Police Minister Tony McNulty and Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair to consider searching more young people. The suggestion contradicts the approach taken by the NBPA to date which has questioned the high proportion of black people stopped and searched by police. Mr. Jarrett told BBC News 24: “It’s not that we should stop and search more black youths. It’s not just black people that carry weapons, white people carry weapons as well. “I am saying the police service should stop young people because young people are the victims of, and the perpetrators of, a lot of these crimes.” Mr. Jarrett said he was reflecting the feelings of the black community who believed stop and search was an effective way of disrupting gangs and reducing violence.
But he acknowledged that it might increase tension in some communities because it was “not as sharp a tool” as police would like. “It’s not going to go down very well with my audience, many of whom are going to be black,” he said. The NBPA’s legal adviser, Ch Supt Ali Dizaei, told the BBC the comments were Mr. Jarrett’s personal views. He said stop and search was “a very, very small part” of the fight against knife and gun crime and increasing its use would be “wrong”. “I think that [it] will increase tension in the black community,” Mr Dizaei said.
But former Home Secretary David Blunkett told the BBC: “I think Keith Jarrett, from the experience he’s had, is right that where the community cooperate and want this, then there should be bravery by the police in terms of being able to do it. “In other words, they shouldn’t back off just because they’re having to deal with a situation where you’ve got black-on-black crime.”
The Macpherson Report, published in February 1999 into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London, strongly criticized the use of stop and search by police officers. Its use is considered to have been a major factor in precipitating the inner-city race riots of the 1980s. Mr. Jarrett told The Observer: “From the return that I am getting from a lot of black people, they want to stop these killings, these knife crimes, and if it means their sons and daughters are going to be inconvenienced by being stopped by the police, so be it.” He said he would not oppose a random use of stop-and-search in situations where officers had “reasonable suspicion” that an offense had been committed. mBut Milena Buyum, coordinator of the National Assembly Against Racism, said the tactic disproportionately affected the black community. “It risks alienating black communities further and is not a very effective way of catching people who are likely to commit offenses.”