Priti Patel’s own officials warned her against easing arrest and search terms | stop and search
Priti Patel has been warned by her own officials that lifting restrictions on police stop and search powers could damage community relations and lead to more targeting of people from ethnic minorities.
An equality impact assessment of stop and search options, commissioned by the Home Office, found that making it easier for the police to stop people can result in the stopping of more people of black, Asian and minority backgrounds.
The disclosure angered a former No 10 racing adviser, who said Patel’s decision would arouse the mistrust of another generation of young black men.
The stop and search tactics are controversial over fears they disproportionately affect black and minority ethnic communities, with campaign groups previously warning that easing restrictions could deepen discrimination.
In a letter to police forces earlier this month, the Home Secretary described the relaxation of conditions, implemented in 2014, on the use of tactics under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act and public order.
Section 60 powers give officers the right to search people without reasonable cause in an area where they expect serious violence and to search for weapons before they can be used or those that have been used in a recent attack. The limitations were put in place in 2014 by then Home Secretary Theresa May.
The impact assessment document, released on Tuesday but signed off in January, said: “Any increase in stops and searches under s60 is likely to result in more people from a minority background being searched. “
The 28-page assessment indicates that in 2020-21, based on self-defined ethnicity alone, ethnic minority and black people were 3.5 and 7.0 times more likely to be searched under all stop and search powers as white people.
The assessment suggested that these disparities could be higher in reality – 4.2 times more likely for people from an ethnic minority background and 8.7 times more likely for black people in particular.
“On s60 searches in particular (which make up 1.3% of all stops and searches) – people from ethnic minorities, and especially black people, are more likely to be searched than white people. Nationally, ethnic minorities and black people were respectively 6.2 and 14 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched under s60 in 2020-2021,” the assessment states.
In 2014, May introduced the best use of the stop and dig system (Busss) to curb the use of the tactic. He introduced five non-legislative and voluntary conditions on police use of Section 60 powers, as part of a wider campaign to reduce racial disparities and increase the effectiveness of stops and searches. .
The relaxation of these conditions was expected to lead to some groups being more likely than others to be subject to full stop and search powers, according to the assessment.
“It is reasonable to assume that a permanent decision to relax some or all of the Busss terms, which would be in view of increased operational flexibility, could lead to a further increase in s60 searches and could, in turn, mean that disparities may continue or are exacerbated,” he said.
Earlier this month, Patel announced that the Home Office would extend the duration of powers from 15 to 24 hours and that a Article 60 could be extended to 48 hours, while it was previously 39 hours. The rank at which officers can authorize the deployment of stop and searches has been lowered from senior officer to inspector, and superintendents can extend the authorization.
Authorizing officers will now only have to anticipate that serious violence “may” rather than “will” occur, and they no longer need to communicate authorizations to communities in advance.
Commenting on Patel’s decision to move forward with changes, Simon Woolley, the former chairman of No 10’s racial disparity unit under Theresa May, said: ‘It is deeply troubling that the political posturing by Priti Patel trumps effective policing — policing with consent — and will further alienate a generation of young black people who will continue to mistrust the police.
The Home Office has been approached for comment.