Theresa May today announced there would be a six-week consultation over the use of "stop and search" powers by the police. Apparently, she wants to ensure that the police are only using stop and search "when it is needed", as otherwise it is "a dreadful waste of police time", and there is talk of the procedure leading to certain ethnic minority groups - who are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people - feeling persecuted and regarding the action as antagonistic.
What an horrendously, unfeelingly pragmatic way of viewing a truly abhorrent way of treating members of the public. Firstly, the desire for stop and search to only be used when needed is incredibly damning and surely should be expanded upon. The suggestion - which we all know is fact - that police officers are abusing the power, most likely through personal or institutionalised racism - most likely both - should be a declaration in the form of condemnation, not muttered as an issue that needs to be ironed out as it is not resource-effective, especially in the wake of revelations concerning the family of Stephen Lawrence being spied upon. The talk of worries that communities which are most affected by this abuse may be antagonised - resulting in retaliation such as the 2011 civil unrest - is sickening. So it's ok to bully black people as long as there's no chance of them ever causing you a problem off the back of it? What about considering the turmoil each individual is put through?
Stop and search is a power that is abused routinely, particularly in London. When I lived there I would see the police camp outside tube stations in the likes of Woolwich and pull young black men to one side whilst I, a white, at the time smartly dressed, man of similar age was allowed to go about my business. This contrast was so stark that I will never forget an eloquent victim of this abuse querying, somewhat rhetorically, "So it's just black guys you're searching today?" He subtly gestured in my direction - with no apparent animosity towards me, it must be said - and I walked on.
I can't imagine what it must be like to be targeted by the police based on the colour of your skin. I've been stopped by the police before, handcuffed in the street - which seemed extreme - before being searched as, in the small town I grew up in, the poorly parked police car slowed the traffic to walking speed at rush hour, so everyone could have a long hard gawp. In this case I was suspected of a crime - a mugging, no less - due to my attire matching a description. The fact that I had several very distinguishing elements in my appearance, none of which were mentioned by the person reporting the crime, seemed to be of little interest to the police officers, who were most concerned with the fact I was "wearing grey". The experience was of a mix of ineptitude from some officers, pure arrogance and disrespect from others. It was certainly a waste of time, but at least it was in the wake of a crime being committed, albeit one where the true perpetrator surely got away as a direct result of me being searched.
I do have a problem with preemptive action in general. I don't understand why the British armed forces, even ostensibly, should bomb and invade a country on a hunch that they may have the capability, and the desire, to one day attack Israel (?), and, equally, I don't understand why we stop young black men in the street because we assume they will be, what? About to mug someone? About to stab someone? About to shoot someone? It does echo Jay-Z, in 99 Problems and playing the part of a white police officer, asking "Are you carrying a weapon on you? I know a lot of you are."
But this is the complexity, and why we as a country don't condemn the abuse of stop and search to a much greater extent. Stop and search is used with an element of f*ckwit efficiency. You see, black people in this country are convicted of a disproportionately high percentage of the country's crime - some cases are actually based around the 9% of stop and searches which result in arrest. So surely it's logical to continue to stop and search black people much more than white people? So then, based partly on the few fruitful searches, the conviction rates of black people will continue to increase, even more disproportionately, and there will be further justification for stopping and searching black people, you guessed it, even more disproportionately. Whilst white criminals, not stopped and searched and consequently not discovered to be in possession of drugs or weapons, are therefore not convicted of the crimes they are committing.
And, yes, of course, eventually this discrimination leads to disillusionment, disenchantment and to a disregard of the police, the state and the rule of law. If powers are being abused by those tasked with protecting the public then why should the laws they are employed to uphold be respected? Somehow an idiotic assumption that a black person is more likely to be carrying something which will lead to their arrest can lead to black people being more likely to commit crimes. The research over the 2011 civil unrest is clear - anger over stop and search was a significant contributory factor.
So stop and search is a two-pronged cause of disproportionately high levels of convictions for black people. Both "successful" stop and searches result in disproportionate numbers of black people being arrested and convicted and, we, I suppose, summise that being treated poorly by the nation's officers of the law leads to rebellion against the state, leading also to a path of crime.
I was very nearly mugged a week or two ago. By a black guy. I managed to get away, I lived to tell the tale. There wasn't a policeman or police car in sight for the duration of the two mile walk I had embarked upon. If this guy had been stopped and searched earlier in the day would he have been found to have a knife in his possession? I can't say. The conversation didn't quite reach the point of threats so I don't know if a weapon would have come into play. Perhaps a better question is to ask, if the guy was aware that black people are so much more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people - which he surely was - would that make him more or less likely to subject a white person to the terrifying and emasculating ordeal of a street mugging? I think I know the answer.
Follow Jay29ers on Twitter