Wednesday, 19 February 2014

For the sake of black young men, do NOT end stop-and-search!

Today, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper announced Labour’s intention to work with the government on reforming stop and search. This police power has been criticized for disproportionately targeting young men from ethnic minorities, particularly black young men. Which in turn, it is claimed, is polluting the relations between police and these communities – causing frustration, anger, resentment.

Stop and search is a powerful tool which rightly needs to be consistently scrutinized. But make no mistake about it: stop and search saves lives. If it had not been for stop and search, many more parents in these ethnic communities – not least single black mothers – would have had to attend funerals of yet more needlessly slain sons. That the police is keeping up stop and search is not borne out of racism but actual care for these communities. If the police had been truly racist, it would instead let black teenagers kill each other without intervening.

Case in point, just look at the murders committed so far in London this month. Five murders. All committed with knives. And in all cases, teenagers have been arrested and charged for the murders. The first victim was a teenage Iraqi refugee, and a teenager with a Muslim name has been charged. In at least two of the other cases, black male teenagers have been charged. The last murder, just two days ago, was on a shop keeper in Upton Park, and the police has now charged three teenagers with that murder (two 14-year old's, one 16-year old).

Stop and search has a profound raison d’être. A vital tool for the police to keep the streets in poor ethnic communities reasonably safe. The only people who would gain on the abolishment of stop and search would be the criminal thugs who destabilize and instill fear in these communities. They are the true menace to the communities, not the police.

Knives seized from teenagers by London police
In the end, of course, stop and search is nothing but an instrument with which to minister the symptoms, as if doctoring a malign tumour. Make no mistake about it, the police is not the problem here, it is the violent culture festering among poor ethnic youth which is the disease that needs removing. Something which is a far more complicated issue, including not only far sighted government and council responses, but also that community leaders puts pressure on parents – not least fathers – to be present and take responsibility.

Yes, stop and search might need some reforming, e.g. “the practice of giving officers targets for stop and search in some areas”. But even after the reforms, young men from ethnic minorities will be disproportionately targeted. And rightly so. Why? Because facts are facts. Stop and search saves lives, not least the lives of poor young men from ethnic communities – not least black young men.