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CJA responds to Baroness Casey’s call for a ‘fundamental reset’ of stop and search

Baroness Casey’s wide-ranging and damning report into the standards, behaviour and culture of the Metropolitan Police Service has found the force is institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic. We welcome the recommendations to root out racism, misogyny and homophobia in the police force and to tackle the toxic corporate culture and the injustice and harm it perpetuates against women and minoritised communities.

With the publication of our super-complaint investigation by the HMI Constabulary (HMIC), Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) and College of Policing (CoP) only weeks away, we have focused on her findings in relation to stop and search in this initial comment.

As our super-complaint argued, overuse of stop and search, in particular where reasonable grounds are not required under s60, coupled with a lack of effective scrutiny and accountability, is having a detrimental and harmful impact on trust and confidence in the police with Black communities. We therefore welcome Baroness Cassey’s recommendation that the use of stop and search by the Met ‘needs a fundamental reset.’

Casey highlights that Black people feel ‘traumatised and humiliated’ by the experience of stop and search, the use of the power is ‘deeply embedded in the Met’s culture’ and that it is a ‘racialised tool’ with little to no improvement in disparity of use since the Macpherson Enquiry in 1999. Casey cites research that questions the efficacy of the tactic, including that ‘a sudden surge on s60 searches did not appear to have any effect on the underlying trend of non-domestic violent crime.’

The Review was ‘unable to identify any indications that the Met had explored the impact of stop and search on the trust and confidence of Londoners, especially young Black men’ and found ‘no evidence of the Met considering how [the humiliation and trauma] would impact on how those who had been stopped would use the police service (including their willingness to report crimes, provide vital intelligence, and seek help if they or their families are in danger) and how to mitigate this.’

We echo Casey’s assessment of the ‘wider corrosive impact’ a lack of trust can have. Our super-complaint, entitled ‘More harm than good’, argued that any potential benefits of suspicion-less searches (the least effective and most disproportionately used stop and search power) must be weighed against the individual and community harms caused. This includes the negative impact on safeguarding children and young adults, as well as preventing and resolving crime due to the wall of silence from victims and witnesses who could have vital intelligence.

Casey concludes that ‘a huge and radical step is required to regain police legitimacy and trust among London’s Black communities.’ The CJA would like to see the recommendations of our super-complaint implemented by the Metropolitan Police, who are responsible for 40-50% of all stop and searches carried out in England and Wales.

Since the launch of our super-complaint in May 2021, they have carried out over 1500 s.60 searches. Halting the use of suspicion-less searches and significantly improving the scrutiny and accountability of all stop and searches would be a positive signal of the Metropolitan Police’s intention to carry out a ‘fundamental reset’ in the use of these powers. Only last month The Commissioner acknowledged that stop and search in its present form ‘burns through trust’. We urge him to take these practical steps to tackle racial injustice and start building trust as a matter of urgency.

Finally, it is incumbent upon government and all the relevant bodies in policing and across the wider criminal justice system to ensure that this is not merely another ‘landmark report’ that fails to initiate substantive change. There is a growing inertia across our criminal justice institutions which too often fail to address challenges, improve services or implement the myriad of common-sense recommendations that would deliver a more equitable and effective criminal justice system. This erodes trust across the whole system and the concept of justice itself. We need to work together to make sure this report changes outcomes for those who have been discriminated against, harmed and let down for too long and that it is a defining moment for all the right reasons.

Nina Champion (Director) and Mark Blake (Policy Manager)