Discrimination and the MET

Meeting: 
MQT on 2016-10-19
Session date: 
October 19, 2016
Reference: 
2016/3853
Question By: 
Navin Shah
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

Are black people routinely discriminated by the MET in stop and search operations in London?

Answer

Answer for Discrimination and the MET

Answer for Discrimination and the MET

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thanks for your question, Mr Shah.  Stop-and-search is a legitimate policing tactic that is supported by the vast majority of Londoners.  We know that when stop-and-search is intelligence‑led and is used fairly and proportionately, it is effective and has the support of London’s communities.  That said, the tactic does cause concern among some communities and can harm confidence if conducted poorly.  Stop-and-search is an intrusive police power and can be contentious.  For many members of the public who are neither victims nor offenders, it may be their only encounter with the police.  We all know that the inappropriate use of these powers over many years, both real and perceived, has tarnished the relationship between the police and some communities they serve.  We also know what the issues are with stop-and-search: the quality of the encounter between the officer and the person being searched and the perception that is used to discriminate against some sections of the community, particularly young black men.

 

I am aware that since the launch of the MPS’s Stop It campaign in 2012, created to improve how the MPS targets suspects, the use of stop-and-search has been curtailed by 66%.  This is down to the good work of Sir Bernard Hogan‑Howe [Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis].  While I do not believe that there is routine discrimination, there is still work to be done.  That is why I have committed that the stop-and-search we do is used in an intelligence‑led and effective manner.  That is why we need to promote and recruit a police force that looks like the community it serves.  The Police and Crime Plan, due to go out to formal consultation by the end of this year, will address this.  In addition, the rollout of body‑worn video across the MPS will help to improve trust and confidence in the police.  This technology is already helping to drive down complaints against officers and making them more accountable.  We know most Londoners are supportive of their use.

 

A final point I would make is that we have an excellent cohort of community volunteers who monitor stop-and-search, including being present at the Notting Hill Carnival.  We provide the opportunity for the community to talk directly to the police if they feel stop-and-search has been used excessively, inappropriately or in a discriminatory way.

 

Navin Shah AM:  Mr Mayor, thank you, as always, for a full response to my main question.  I have a couple of supplementaries to further explore the situation.

 

It is worrying that for every one white Londoner - and this was in August this year - five black Londoners were stopped.  This figure, unfortunately, has been creeping up since the last year.  In fact, the ratio has been going upward since last year, when it was three in one in August 2015.  This poses serious questions.

 

Does this rise concern you?  I am sure it does concern you.  What do you think accounts for this?  The initiatives that you have suggested in this respect I do very much welcome, but even to counter the impression that the MPS’s stop-and-search is targeted on the basis of race, how are you going to tackle that?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I firstly explain why it is so important?  I believe in policing by consent.  The police by themselves cannot keep us safe.  They need intelligence and information from the community and that means the community having confidence in the police service.  If you are, in your mind, wrongly stopped and searched today - or your younger brother, your bigger brother, your dad or your nephew - question: are you going to come forward tomorrow with information or be a witness?  That is why it is important for all of us to make sure the police get this right.  I am in favour of intelligence‑led stop-and-search.  Stop-and-search is a useful tool, but you are right that there are legacy issues in relation to a perception that it is used unfairly.

 

There have been huge improvements as a consequence of Macpherson and a few other things.  The body‑worn video is not a silver bullet, but the body‑worn video will improve confidence.  All the evidence from the pilots show fewer complaints against the police.  The police like it and it leads to easier to obtain evidence and faster justice.  You are right that I am afraid it is a longstanding issue that we have not managed to solve.  Public confidence is crucial.

 

Navin Shah AM:  Yes, public confidence. Particularly I think there is a strong need for effective engagement with community, that local intelligence from the ground and confidence from the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community and particularly the youth is very important and there is a gap here that needs to be bridged.  Anecdotally, my children, if you ask the youth, do not have a lot of trust because of stop-and-search and the way that is being conducted.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I do not think your experience is unusual amongst some members of the BAME community.  One of the reasons why the current Commissioner was so keen to have a police service looking more like London is because you get more confidence if the police look more like you.  I went to a passing-out parade recently and the good news is we have record numbers of BAME officers and women officers - it is still not good enough - roughly speaking, 13% BAME and 26% women.  The good news is, of the new recruits, more and more are BAME and women.  We have to carry on; we cannot be complacent.  We have to keep our foot on the gas.

 

Navin Shah AM:  I am aware that there was a record recruitment of something like 4,000 BAME officers recently.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Correct.  Roughly speaking, 31,000 officers, 4,000 BAME and 8,000 women.  It is a record number, but it is not good enough.

 

Navin Shah AM:  Thank you.  It is just a question of making sure that we address this issue very seriously to see how we can improve on stop-and-search.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I agree with you.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  Mr Mayor, just in terms of interaction with BAME communities and MPS, I very much welcome the announcement around the body‑worn cameras.  It is something that I have campaigned on in terms of some of the work I have done with young people in Lambeth and Southwark.  The fact that the cameras will not be required to be switched on at all times - witnessing a stop-and-search that has escalated in a matter of five seconds from a good stop-and-search to a really bad one in Peckham - I am just grateful for your views on the fact that there is not that requirement for officers to wear them all the time.  Do you think that that may be a concern, the fact that some incidents may not be captured?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is worth just reminding ourselves that the piloting of the body-worn video was the most comprehensive piloting ever done by any police force in the world.  The rollout is the biggest rollout in any city in the world.  We will have all 22,000 frontline officers with body‑worn video by the end of next summer.  We have consulted and worked closely with the public and we have academic evaluation of the piloting.  In relation to the rollout, we have also consulted the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the College of Policing and the Home Office to get it right.  The way the body‑worn video works is, when you press the button, the preceding 30 seconds are recorded; visual, not audio.  It is not on all the time because there are issues around privacy and issues around some people not wanting to be recorded for very good reasons, which I can talk about if you need me to.

 

If you, as a member of the public, are in a situation with the police, the officer is trained to start recording it; you can ask for it to be recorded if you want.  You will see a red light flashing.  The new camera is different to the original pilot ones.  The original ones, you could not tell, as a member of the public, whether the body‑worn video has been recording.  There will now be a red light flashing and there will be a beep every 30 seconds so you know it is recorded.  If you are in a stop-and-search or a stop-and-account or your vehicle has been stopped or you are the victim of domestic abuse or a victim generally, it should be recorded.  If it is not, you can ask the officer to record it.  The Commissioner is quite keen to reassure Londoners that if it is the case that somebody who should have been recording it is not recording it, those issues around training and conduct can be taken on board by the police.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  Just on that, the timeframe for the image to be captured is 31 days.  Again specifically targeting BAME communities, who sometimes are not aware of the process in terms of how to make complaints against the police or how to follow up in terms of some enquiries, do you feel that 31 days is sufficient?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I do because it is getting the balance right between having all this data kept somewhere, issues around privacy and also making sure there is due process and accountability.  If you want to make a complaint or want a copy of the recording, you should do so within 14 days.  After 31 days, unless somebody has been arrested or there is a complaint made or there is a reason to keep the recording, it will be deleted.

 

If you think about it just rationally for a second, we have 22,000 frontline officers, we have 32,000 officers and the armed response teams will be having these shortly.  It is just not sensible to keep all this stuff for a long period of time unless there is a good reason to do so.  If you have a good reason to keep it, it will be kept; otherwise, it will be deleted after 31 days.  As I said, we have consulted the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the College of Policing and the Home Office.  It is getting that balance right; it is very important.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  Thank you.