Expert says police 'stop and search is racially biased'

Aimee Kapfunde - The-Latest - EXCLUSIVE

Ex-top cop David Michael has rejected the controversial term "Black on Black" crime to describe the wave of fatal knifings in the British capital.

The former detective chief inspector and current chair of the Lewisham Police Community Consultative Group in south east London, says that "youth on youth" crime is a more accurate description of the problem. He explained that London's Metropolitan Police had ceased using the racially charged term "Black on Black" in 2003, under pressure from their ruling body but the news media still used it.

Michael, once one of London's most senior Black officers, served in the police force for 30 years. He said: "I understand the connotations of racialising crime...I see no useful purpose in definitions like Black on Black. So, for example, if people are involved in gun crime or knife crime or drug related crime, I think the important factor is the area of criminality, rather than people's race or ethnicity or national origin. For me where it is youth-related we should talk about youth on youth crime."

Michael insists that his preference for the term "youth on youth" is not a bid to "cover or hide the fact that some criminal activity does disproportionately impact on the Black and minority ethnic community - particularly young Black men". But he says that, as recent events have shown, this epidemic is not just a Black problem. White aspiring actor, Ben Kinsella, 16, hit the news headlines when he was knifed to death at Islington, north London, last month.

But Michael says: "We don't talk about white on white crime." He adds that racially labelling crime is  'corrosive'. His firm stance is that colour is irrelevant, because  'a life is a life regardless of race. These stereotypes need to be "diminished' as "nice young white kids are getting involved now".

Michael, a founder member and former chair of the Black Police Association, says that knife crime is a people problem that is tearing through the heart of our communities with 14,000 victims a year. Already this year it has claimed the lives of 19 youths in London.

Police have vowed to fight the problem "force with force". Michael says: "I don't think the police are just sitting by and watching kids killing each other...The police still have a lot of power and it's about them using this power constructively...The police are doing a lot in many ways.' But Michael, who retired in 2002 after winning a public apology and financial compensation from police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon following a much-publicised race discrimination case against the Met, adds:  "Whether they concentrate their efforts in the right places can sometimes be debatable."

Research shows that Black people are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. Some commentators say that this is a misuse of their time and effort. According to Michael, the targeting of Black boys and men for controversial stop and search operations is because of the racism of some  'individual police officers' as opposed to them  'just responding to criminality out on the streets'.

Michael says that it appears that the racial stereotypes held by the police force have not changed much, despite claims in the most senior ranks that they have, and that there is still an ounce of "white superiority" which clouds the judgement of some officers.

Operation Trident, now referred to as just Trident, was set up by the Metropolitan Police to deal with gun crime in London's Black community in March 1998, following a series of shootings in the boroughs of Lambeth and Brent.

Writing in the Evening Standard a few days before he spoke to The-Latest, Michael warned: "It's important that we don't react with hysteria and for example demand even more stop and search. Listen to what the police say: stop and search is just one operational response. They use lots of other methods too, working in an intelligence-led way and with the support of the community."

He says that there is no clear or easy solution to tackling the growth of "youth on youth" crime. Michael urges society not to try and fight the problem by throwing prison sentences around and insists that: "Too many people are starting at the point of punishment...yet education and prevention is needed." Michael argues that if a youth commits a crime which leads to murder they need to be punished with a long prison sentence.

But he says that to prevent the current epidemic from getting any worse: "There needs to be a strong reinforcement of what is right and wrong, from the cradle to the grave...(society) building an infrastructure of collective responsibility for when children lose their way."

He adds: "But in the end it is down to every part of society - parents, schools, churches and faith groups - to redouble our efforts to change young people's minds about the need to carry knives."

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Copyright  © 2008 The-Latest Ltd


1 Response to "Expert says police 'stop and search is racially biased'"

chris's picture


Fri, 07/11/2008 - 21:20
<p><strong><u>Chris Gaynor</u></strong></p> Children have lost their way because of the top down shambles that is government. Interestingly enough, it is the Tories that are trying to pave the way in tackling social responsibility. WE have to take a stand on what is happening to our country. At the very heart of the community is family. Children must HAVE a role model in their community, preferably a father. Otherwise, the escalating crime wave will continue to soar. Also, what about the diet of youngsters? Is it fuelling over hyped up teenagers?