Last year Leicestershire Police Force released a report titled “Stop Search Annual Report 2019/20” which gave the details of their use of stop and search powers over the period covering April 2019 to March 2020. The report summarises that “Leicestershire Police officers conducted a total of 4,631 stop searches, up 20% from 3,711 the previous year.” As part of this increased use of their powers the police focused predominantly on searches for drugs, thus:
“13.8% of all stop searches were for weapons and 65.7% for drugs. In comparison, the previous year stop searches for weapons were 17.8% and 58.1% for drugs.”
It is highly significant that over half of all stop and search related arrests were for drug offences — most relating to personal consumption of cannabis which as the police observe “is not a current strategic policing priority in itself”. As the report goes on to explain: “In 2019-20 there were 746 arrests made as a direct result of the use of stop and search powers; this includes 400 arrests after a stop and search for drugs and 144 arrests for possessing weapons.”
Although sidestepping the issue of institutional racism in the police, the report acknowledges that “There is no avoiding the fact that both nationally and in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland a disparity does exist between race and stop and search.” By which they mean that your likelihood of being harassed by the police increases is far greater if you are black.
When it comes to drug searches the police’s own data spotlights that a black person living in Leicester is three times more likely to be subjected to a police stop and search than a white person. But this disproportionality skyrockets in the county, and so outside the city a black person is thirteen times more likely to be subjected to a police stop and search than a white person!
The police report goes on to further highlight the existence of institutional racism when they talk about the generalised disproportionality when it comes to the use of all stop and searches in the region (not just for drugs). The police thus determined that in the county (across Leicestershire and Rutland) black people were the subject of 6.9% of all stop and searches conduced even though they only made up 0.59% of the population in the country! (In Leicester city although not as bad as in the county, black individuals made up 21.9% of all stop and searches while only making up 6.24% of the city’s population.)
And as if all this were not bad enough, making matters worse the rate of arrest for those black people who are stopped is higher than that of white people (20.9% versus 16.48%).