In a letter addressed to all 43 police forces in England and Wales, Suella Braverman emphasized the urgent need to halt the “dangerous culture” of carrying weapons. Braverman also called upon the forces to promptly release body camera footage to counteract instances of police officers being subjected to “trial by social media.”Critics of the stop-and-search policy argue that it unfairly targets ethnic minorities. Under the current legislation in England and Wales, police have the authority to stop and search individuals or vehicles. If they possess “reasonable grounds” to suspect the presence of a weapon, drugs, stolen goods, or any item that could potentially be used to commit a crime.
Detractors claim that this practice disproportionately affects ethnic minorities. Particularly black men, leading individuals to feel victimized. However, the government asserts that stop-and-search is a “common sense policing tactic,” with the Metropolitan Police describing it as a “crucial power” for safeguarding the public.
Government Data on Seized Weapons and Arrests through Stop-and-Search
Citing new data, the government highlights that over 100,000 weapons have been seized from the streets of Britain since 2019. Almost half of them were confiscated during stop-and-search operations, resulting in over 220,000 arrests.
In her letter, Braverman stated, “My primary concern is ensuring public safety. And individuals who insist on carrying weapons must recognize that there will be consequences. The police have my complete support in intensifying the use of stop-and-search whenever necessary to prevent violence and save lives.”
Government statistics indicate that black individuals are seven times more likely to be subjected to stop-and-search than their white counterparts. Campaign groups have previously warned that relaxing restrictions on police use of this power could exacerbate discriminatory practices.
Acknowledging the Disproportionate Effect of Knife Crime on Black Men
While acknowledging that black men are disproportionately affected by knife crime. The Home Office conceded that they were also more likely to be stopped by the police. Braverman expressed her endorsement of law enforcement agencies efforts to combat this scourge in communities that are disproportionately impacted. Such as among young black males, emphasizing the need to employ all available measures to address this violence.
The Home Office further called upon officers to utilize their existing powers to apprehend individuals who unlawfully obstruct stop-and-search operations. It urged forces to swiftly release footage from officers’ body cameras to prevent innocent officers from being subjected to trial by social media.
Additionally, the Home Office announced its intention to enshrine two conditions for employing stop-and-search powers into law. The department specified that when implementing Section 60 orders. That enables stop-and-searches to be conducted without requiring “reasonable grounds,” and the police should communicate with the local community. Section 60 orders can be authorized by police forces for specific areas, typically a neighbourhood or even an entire borough, for a designated period.
The Home Office also emphasized the continued collection of data on all stop-and-search interactions for publication. Ensuring transparency and public scrutiny.
In the past, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a policing watchdog, called for an end to the excessive use of stop-and-searches on individuals from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds.