New data showing that people of certain races in Wales are far more likely to be targeted by police using stop and search powers has been described as ‘grim’ and ‘shameful’.
The data, collected by the Wales Governance Center (WGC) at Cardiff University, covers all four Welsh police forces in 2020/21 and found that black people are disproportionately targeted compared to those who are white.
Of 1,000 white people living in Wales, eight were stopped and searched. This compares to a rate of 56 per 1,000 Blacks, 16 per 1,000 Asians, and 28 per 1,000 people who identify as being of mixed ethnicity (ethnic categories are based on self-identification).
The gap in the rate of stops and searches between whites and blacks was slightly larger in Wales (8 against 56) than in England (seven against 51).
Dr. Robert Jones obtained the data and the findings reinforce previous WGC research that has shown high levels of racial disproportionality in sentencing of imprisonment, arrest and detention.
Dr Jones said: “This latest data adds to the evidence we have already uncovered that non-white people are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system in Wales. This includes evidence that people from non-white backgrounds are more likely to be stopped and searched by police, given prison terms and sentenced to longer prison terms than white people in Wales.
“We have previously used our research to call for a Senedd Committee inquiry into racial injustice in the Welsh criminal justice system, this latest data further underlines the need for such an inquiry and for the Welsh Government to pay much attention greater to racial and criminal discrimination. justice in Wales.
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The disproportionate targeting of ethnic minority groups by stop and search has been shown to seriously undermine citizens’ trust in the police. This makes policing more difficult because there is a lack of public support.
Christina Tanti, Research and Evaluation Co-ordinator at Race Equality First, is the author of the NGO Joint Shadow Report on Racial Inequality in Wales.
The report, which will be submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also highlighted low arrest rates following stops with only 15% of searches conducted under Section 1 of PACE that led to an arrest in Dyfed-Powys, 12% in South Wales, 11% in North Wales and 8% in Gwent.
In addition, arrest rates for stops made under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPO) are even lower. These were authorized nationwide by the Home Office in August 2019 and are known as ‘without suspicion’ searches as they allow police to search anyone in a given area for a period of time. given, even if it has no reasonable grounds to suspect that anyone has committed a crime.
In 2019/2020, 200 Section 60 stops were made by North Wales Police – only 1% led to an arrest. In the same year, 101 Section 60 stops were made by South Wales Police – only 2% resulted in an arrest. This shows how section 60 is a crude and ineffective tool.
Ms Tanti said: “We are concerned about the impact of the stop and search on ethnic minority groups. Specifically, its role in deteriorating confidence in policing among ethnic minority populations. »
Ms Tanti highlighted the recent deaths of two black youths following encounters with police, with South Wales Police in the case of Mohamud Mohammed Hassan in January 2021 and Gwent Police in the case of Moyied Bashir in February 2021. She also highlighted historical examples such as under the name Cardiff Five.
This sentiment was echoed by Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation. He said: “These grim data show that the disproportion in stopping and seeking is not diminishing.
“It’s no wonder there is a lack of trust between black, Asian and minority ethnic people and the police when these communities are still far more frequently stopped and searched than their white counterparts – especially in the Country. of Wales compared to England.
“Until this racial disparity is effectively addressed, we will continue to see the injustice in the overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the criminal justice system and a broken relationship between these communities and the police.”
The police are not decentralized and are the responsibility of the UK government.
The matter is expected to be raised in the Senedd by South Wales Central MS, Rhys ab Owen. Plaid Cymru’s Constitution and Justice spokesperson said: ‘I will be raising these new outrageous stop and frisk figures with the Prime Minister in the Senedd on Tuesday.
“I will be calling on him to take action on this issue but I realize he has his hands tied because the Welsh Government does not have full control over the police and the criminal justice system. Plaid Cymru believes that We in Wales should have the powers over the police and the judiciary as it happens in other parts of the UK Once again Wales is being left behind and we are failing our The decentralization of justice and policing would ensure clear accountability to all communities in Wales.
Responding to the data, a Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘The Government fully supports the police in using stops and searches fairly to curb crime, including violent crime, and to protect communities. . It is right that these powers be used to stand firm against criminals who break the law. »
“Every knife removed from our streets is a life potentially saved. Stop and search removed nearly 16,000 dangerous weapons from our streets and resulted in nearly 80,000 arrests last year. Crime statistics show that increased proactive policing, such as stops and searches, helps police find more knives and drugs and arrest more criminals.
“No one should be stopped and searched because of their race and extensive safeguards such as statutory codes of practice and body worn videos exist to ensure this does not happen.”
Commenting to WalesOnline, Superintendent Mike Richards of Gwent Police said: “Our officers are being trained to ensure the proportionate use of powers, including stop and search.
“Officers must always have reasonable grounds to use stop and search powers, for example, if they believe someone is carrying illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something that could be used to commit a crime.
“Our recent reporting data (July-September 2021) shows that our racial disproportionality figures, which identify how much more likely an individual from a black or minority ethnic group is to be searched compared to a white person, are to their lowest level since registration at Gwent Police began.
“There are times when we can see an increase in the use of these powers during targeted enforcement operations, such as Operation Scepter, which aims to remove dangerous weapons from our communities and reduce crime. with a knife.
“While our numbers show an improving position, we will continue to monitor the numbers regularly, working with our communities and the Independent Advisory Group, to ensure transparency and effective learning.”
A spokeswoman for Wales’ greatest force said:
“Stop and search is an important power that police have to help reduce crime. When used correctly, it can enable police to detect and respond to crimes that may have occurred and to prevent crime Stop and search can increase public confidence in policing, but by their very nature can also interfere with personal liberty.
“Across the UK, black and minority ethnic people are statistically more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. It is therefore crucial to ensure that stop and search is monitored at all times to ensure that power is used in a fair and non-discriminatory manner This process will be more robust when the public has the opportunity to scrutinize the use of stops and searches.
“We are aware of the vital importance of ensuring that we do not discriminate against individuals or groups, and of being able to respond to any concerns raised by minority groups or others.
“Members of the police and crime commissioner team conduct immersion sampling exercises which involve reviewing stop and search forms completed by officers, as well as reviewing videos carried on the body.
“The arrest and search is also reviewed by the Force Trust and Legitimacy Group and the Police Accountability and Legitimacy Group led by the police and the Crime Commissioner.
“In addition, each South Wales Police Base Command Unit has a Community Cohesion Group, made up of members of local communities who study the use of stop and frisk at the local level. .”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: ‘Policing is a non-devolved matter and remains the responsibility of the Home Office. We will continue to work closely with the Home Office and the four Welsh Police Forces and Police and Crime Commissioners to deliver the fairer Wales we all want to see.
“A key objective of our ‘An Anti-Racist Wales’ action plan is to work with the criminal justice system to better understand and address racial disproportionality and its causes, including in the youth justice system.
“Our collective goal is that everyone who comes into contact with the criminal justice system receives equal treatment and equal results.”