Racism and Stop and Search: An Open Letter to Commissioner Hogan-Howe

This post was written by Guest Post on January 17, 2012
Posted Under: Uncategorized

This is an open letter to Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe. We invite a response, which, if received, we will publish in full.

Dear Mr Hogan-Howe,

I attended your talk at the London School of Economics last night. Amidst the management-speak and froth, a single statistic that you mentioned caught my attention.

“Young black men are four times more likely than others to be stopped and searched under Section 1 [of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984] and eight times more likely than others to be stopped and searched under Section 60 [of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994]”

Alone these are startling words, but I would like to interrogate them a little further. Since the “sus laws” were repealed in the early 1980s, the police have needed “reasonable suspicion” to commit a stop and search under Section 1. But under Section 60 no such demand is made. Under Section 60, where for a specified time and area this law is put into action, any police officer is able “to stop any pedestrian and search him” without reasonable suspicion.

What does all of this mean? Well ultimately that the demand for “reasonable suspicion” is barely keeping the police force in check, but that when Section 60 is invoked something far more worrying is revealed: Police in London consistently believe that more young black men are involved in crime than they have reasonable grounds to suspect. That is, police officers consistently have an unfounded belief in the criminality of young black men, which is significantly affecting their conduct using the Section 60 Stop and Search laws. We can probably assume, too, that what is exposed about the police force by this statistic affects all areas of their work, and their contact with the communities of London.

The Section 60 imposed across London immediately after the riots in August can be seen as a test case. Walking around the streets of Camden, Islington, and Hackney, I saw police officers stopping and searching each and every young black man walking on main streets. As a white 25-year old male I wasn’t stopped once.

You also mentioned last night that you believe strongly in people’s right to go about their business unmolested. But what is clear, from the fact that 90% of stop and searches result in no further action, is that stop and search is being used punitively, and that it is being used punitively not against individuals but against communities of London divided along the lines of race. Every day, young black men in our city are molested going about their business by a racist force whose power to stop and search is being used as a means to harass and abuse young black people.

Where officers cannot, within their powers, arrest or charge young black people in line with their unfounded racist belief in the criminality of young black men, they are using their powers of stop and search as a means of punishment. You may, from your office, not consider it a great attack on personal liberty to be stopped and searched, but when it happens to you day after day, week after week, and on no basis but for the colour of your skin, then it is nothing but harassment.

We welcome a response from you on these matters.

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Reader Comments

Abu Grape

What’s “unfounded”? Young black men are disproportionately involved in committing crimes. That is demonstrated by eg. the statements of their victims, many of whom are themselves black. The figures for stop and search simply reflect that disproportion (as do the disproportionate number of young black men in jail).

Written By Abu Grape on January 17th, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

Here is Inspector Gadget’s take on Stop and Search, and the link to arrests


I highly recommend his blog for policing related subjects. And he’s very critical of the current government, so I’m sure he’ll have lots of fans here.

Written By Owain on January 22nd, 2012 @ 7:40 pm
PC Caliban

Warning to the Met. Bernard Hogan-Howe was the Cheif Constable of Merseyside Police and he made a big noise about Racism and Homophobia being unacceptable. Yet inside the Force during his leadership complaints of bullying went up by 30 per cent. In response to this increase Bernard Hogan-Howe created the TRUE Team. WATCH OUT FOR THAT NAME BEING CREATED IN THE MET.
It is supposed to safeguard against the bullying of minority officers and staff. BUT, all is not what it seems. People, especially UNISON became concerned over the People who were being put incharge of the TRUE team. One was a known Racist and Homophobe who Hogan-Howe personally prevented from being dismissed from the Force and personally put him on the TRUE Team. The other was a known bully of any officer issuing a complaint.
Then the real truth of the TRUE team became clear when a new way of issuing a complaint was revealed. A G1 Form or Grievance. On the face of it it looks like a good way to deal with such issues. It offers mediation. But what if the issue is so serious that the complainant feels it needs a full investigation. Such as assault? Tough. A rule is included that allows HR to block any G1 form without giving a reason. Strangely enough 100 per cent of complaints of Racist, Homophobic Bullying are blocked. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU ABOUT THE RELIABILITY OF THE WORDS OUT OF COMMISSIONER HOGAN-HOWE’S MOUTH?
Lastly, if you type into a search engine, Merseyside Police BNP Officer named you will see details of Bernard Hogan-Howe’s driver who was outed as a member of the BNP. Bernard was outraged and shocked. But wait a minute, just go back on what I have written and see the piece about the known Racsist, Homophobe he not only decided to keep in the Force but also decided to promote him.
Speak your mind:

Written By PC Caliban on January 24th, 2012 @ 11:35 am

To respond to the person who questions ‘unfounded’, I might caution you to be aware of statistics and what people tell you or write as truth. Information is cencored and controlled, and used politically, by clever people, to ‘help’ the general public form opinions that serve their objectives.

If the police are known, through investigation and action to be racist, then why do you think there are more black people in our prisons??

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