The minister responsible for race relations has admitted he is “concerned” that police are still targeting black and Asian people for stop and searches, as he announced plans to consult ethnic minority communities in Birmingham about reforms to equality laws.
Sadiq Khan is to visit the city as part of an inquiry into race relations ten years after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, which claimed police were “institutionally racist”. Latest Government figures show that black people in the West Midlands are five times as likely to be stopped and searched as whites, while Asians are twice as likely.
Police stopped and searched 94,067 white people in 2006-7. This means they stopped eight white people for every 1,000 in the region’s population. They also stopped and searched 21,806 black people, which represents 46 for every 1,000 living in the region, and 22,857 Asians, 19 for every 1,000 people.
The Lawrence Inquiry in 1999 followed the death of London teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993. It criticised the Metropolitan Police, in particular, but findings led to reforms designed to stamp out racism in forces across the country.
Mr Khan is leading an inquiry by the Department for Communities and Local Government timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the report. He will consider ways to improve school results for children in ethnic minorities and cutting unemployment, as well as policing.
He was still concerned that some ethnic groups were apparently being targeted. He said: “The police are better trained now than they were ten years ago. And we know that total number of stops and searches has gone up. We are reassured that the stop and searches are intelligence-led. Now, of course, the figures are not pleasing to anybody. It would be different if stops and searches were leading necessarily to arrests and conviction, but that’s not happening all the time.
“Of course there is a concern – because we want to police by consent, and the police need the co-operation of citizens. Anything that undermines that confidence should be a source of concern.”
As part of the inquiry, Mr Khan and will visit eight cities with significant ethnic minority populations to speak to communities about the problems they face.