Met Deputy Commissioner under fire for stop and search comments

By Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

The Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has been criticised for comments defending the disproportionate use of stop and search on young black men in London.

Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House was quoted in the Evening Standard saying “of course our stopping and searching is disproportionate” as the Met is focusing its attention “where the problem lies”.

But Sir Stephen has come under fire for defending a policy that some, including Green Party London Mayor candidate Sian Berry, claim is causing mistrust of the police in some communities.

Sian Berry told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s frankly incredible that the Deputy Commissioner would literally admit that his policing is ‘disproportionate’ but then pledge to push ahead with it.

“All the evidence shows that excessive and disproportionate stop and search does more harm than good. It breeds mistrust among communities, and it racially profiles London’s young people.

“As Mayor, I will use the powers I have to set new priorities for the police and roll back the use of stop and search.”

The Deputy Commissioner’s comments followed the release of figures that showed only six Met officers had been disciplined since 2014 despite almost 5,000 complaints about the use of stop and search in that time.

At a meeting of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee last month, Sir Stephen House told Assembly members that there was a “trust and confidence gap” between communities on the Met’s use of stop and search, and that it must be done “with respect for the individuals and the communities they come from”.

In today’s comments, the Deputy Commissioner said that young black men are disproportionately stopped and searched because “young black men are dying on the streets of London and are being stabbed on the streets of London and, candidly, are also stabbing on the streets of London”.

Labour Assembly Member Jennette Arnold, who sits on the police and crime committee, today said that stop and search “can be used to protect young black men”, but that the situation is “much more nuanced” and the Met “do acknowledge this”.

Ms Arnold said: “I will make no apology for robustly scrutinising the disproportionate use of stop and search.

“I support the Deputy Commissioner’s view that stop and search is an important tool in tackling violent crime and can be used to protect young Black men who are much more at risk of becoming caught up in it.

“But the picture is a lot more nuanced than this. The Met Police do acknowledge this, and this is why they have committed to implementing the recommendations in the Mayor’s Action Plan and why the Deputy Commissioner highlights the need to tackle bias within its ranks.

“It’s not just the case of where it’s used, but how it’s used. For example, the IOPC have stepped in to advise that the smell of cannabis should not be legitimate grounds for stopping and searching someone, as multiple other objective factors need to be taken into account first. In other words, for stop and search to be effective, there is a clear need for the Met to continue to work towards refining its approach.

“There is the appetite amongst London’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to work with, and not against, the police to improve a relationship that has been damaged over the decades. A key part of this involves constructively holding the police to account.”

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