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Concern over stop and search

PUBLISHED: 15:07 14 April 2008 | UPDATED: 20:07 05 July 2010

AN INCREASINGLY high proportion of black people compared to white are being stopped and searched by police in Suffolk, a “worrying” new report has revealed.

AN INCREASINGLY high proportion of black people compared to white are being stopped and searched by police in Suffolk, a “worrying” new report has revealed.

Black people are now 8.8 times more likely to be stopped by police in the county than white - higher than last year, when concern was voiced.

The chairman of Suffolk Police Authority said last night she would be looking for the cause of the disparities.

Jane Basham, director of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), added: “Although we were expecting the situation to have worsened because of a backlog of inputting data, these figures are worrying.”

Officers stopped and searched the equivalent of 46.1 black people out of every 1,000 between April and December last year, compared to 5.3 out of every 1,000 white people.

This means black people in the county are 8.8 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white. In April 2007, they were 8 times more likely to be stopped.

The figures differ from area to area - in Forest Heath almost equal numbers of searches of black and white people were carried out, but in Waveney, black people are 17 times more likely to be stopped.

Mrs Basham, whose organisation is researching the issue, acknowledged police had a “difficult job to do”.

But she said: “As a result of pressure from ISCRE, the report also now shows police activity in relation to members of the public being asked to 'account for themselves' - this is separate to the stop and search process.

“Again we see significant differences - you are 3.5 times more likely to be asked to account for yourself if you are black, 2.7 times more likely if you are Chinese, 1.7 times if you are Asian and 2.2 times more likely if you are mixed race.

“Adding these two activities together confirms to ISCRE and to our communities, as with the stop and search data, a sense of being targeted because of a perceived non-white British appearance.”

She added: “The report continually refers to the need to be cautious because of 'small numbers' - this comes across as defensive trying to justify the over-representation which is unacceptable.”

Last year, Suffolk police said it was committed to dealing fairly with all sections of the community in order to increase trust and confidence in policing - and pledged to work with racial equality groups to reassure ethnic minority groups living in the county.

The figures, revealed in a report set to be discussed by Suffolk Police Authority on Friday, show of the searches carried out on black people, 10.2pc resulted in an arrest compared to 6.2pc of white people.

Meanwhile, 9.6pc of the searches carried out on Chinese people resulted in arrest and 9.4pc for those with an Asian background.

Gulshan Kayembe, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority, said she was concerned about the figures but insisted the force was examining the issue.

“They are high and they have not ceased to be high. From my perspective, it's something to be concerned about,” she said.

“I would be anxious to reassure our communities. We are trying to do something about it. We're working with ISCRE to bottom out some of the issues and reasons. Once we get a better handle on the reasons we can begin to take action.

“I'm fairly sure it's not an overt way that people are being targeted but, in unwitting ways, police might be doing something which is leading to these high figures.”

Matthew Gould, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, added: “The force is making efforts to ensure the monitoring process is strictly adhered to. Every stop and search in Suffolk is examined by a supervisor.

“The processes are to ensure that searches are justifiable and lawful.”

Police carried out a total of 4,110 stop/searches between April and December last year.

A total of 3,552 were of white people, 206 were black, 134 were of mixed background, 53 were Asian, 52 were Chinese and 113 did not state their ethnicity.

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