Stop and search: how community groups can help build trust in policing

In my role as the deputy chair of the Southwark police independent advisory group (IAG) nel Londra, I have been participating in sessions to view body-worn video and offer feedback. I am pleased to report that the majority of the examples shown to me have included police officers successfully interacting with suspects in a friendly and courteous manner, acting professionally and sometimes with humour.

But on 3 giugno, I observed a stop and search on a busy main road outside my home and asked myself: “How many plainclothes police officers does it take to stop (in two unmarked cars) a young black moped rider?” Answer: eight. Though the officers were professional, there were too many of them. Was it necessary to handcuff the lad while they searched him? The biker looked terrified. He was innocent. Nothing was found. The eight officers left.

Black people were observing. Then an older black man approached the young lad and asked him if he was OK. The biker nodded, composed himself and continued on his journey. The good work of stop-and-search officers is being undermined by the bad apples who are aggressive or, in the example I have given, over the top.

While we do not want officers being attacked in the line of duty, the tensions and mistrust in some sections of our communities runs deep. It may help if the Metropolitan police became more proactive in raising the profiles of their community groups, such as IAGs, community monitoring (stop and search) groups, safer neighbourhood ward panels and safer neighbourhood boards.

Anziché, they have been tasked by the mayor of London to spend valuable time setting up a new group called police encounter panels, when they need to ensure that existing groups are fully representative of their local communities. The Met needs to promote all these groups in the community as important forums in which citizens will come face to face with police officers and can have a productive dialogue with them.
Stephen Bourne

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