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Cops to stop recording ethnicity of stop-and-account subjects

acab | 23.09.2011 17:50 | Policing | Public sector cuts | Birmingham

Half of police forces nationwide, including 5 of the 10 forces with the worst record for targeting minorities, are to scrap the recording of the ethnicity of people they pull over under stop-and-account powers. The recording is being scrapped as part of the agenda to cut down police red tape. Of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, 21 are to scrap the recording of ethnicity, including West Midlands, Avon and Somerset, Thames Valley, Sussex and Hertfordshire, all of which already rank among the top 10 forces for targeting minorities. A West Midlands police officer is 7 times more likely to enact a stop-and-account on an Afro-Carribean than a white. [1] [2]

The stop-and-account power is different from a stop-and-search in that those people the power is used upon are not searched, but instead asked to account for their actions, possessions, presence in an area etc. It is very difficult to find full information on this power, perhaps because, as the Home Office [3] explains, it is not a properly legislated power. It is supposedly listed in PACE but I can't find it.

These police actions, which challenge you to justify yourself, are presented to the public as "the next step beyond the general conversations officers have with members of the public every day". It is unclear whether you have to answer questions during a stop-and-account or whether you can remain silent. The same government web page also makes the disturbing claim that "we have seen little evidence of wide-spread disproportionate use. There are indeed some forces where white people are more likely to be stopped than ethnic minorities".

The requirement to record ethnicity has been one of the key changes won by the fallout of the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry debacle. The Met was described by the Inquiry into the murder investigation as "institutionally racist", and after huge pressure the government introduced the ethnicity requirement to force cops to be more accountable for their racism. That requirement is now being scrapped due to the current political agenda to reduce time cops spend filling in paperwork.

It seems that in this day and age it's not only public services that are being cut. It's also things like ethnic watchdogging of state forces with a well-earned reputation for widespread bullying of ethnic minorities. All this to save some cash. And yet despite the cash-saving agenda, police helicopters still intimidate residential areas at night to the tune of over £1500 per hour in the air. Yet again the cost of the bankers' and politicians' financial crisis is being focused upon minorities and vulnerable groups. We knew that if the tories got in they'd start slashing the responsibilities of the cops, so this was only a matter of time. Unfortunately it seems it is also only the beginning.