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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 19:16 GMT
Black officers worried by search figures
Neville Lawrence
Neville Lawrence was at the conference
Barnie Choudhury, Social Affairs Correspondent

New Home Office figures reveal a rise in black and Asian people being stopped and searched by police. As Barnie Choudhury reports, it was the key issue at a national gathering of black police officers.
In a hotel in Nottingham there were voices murmuring concern.

They belonged to men and women gathered for the fourth annual National Black Police Association conference.


They're failing everybody because they are the law of the land, they are the ones who keep the peace

Neville Lawrence

This year the 500 delegates met on the day the government published the latest stop and search figures for England and Wales.

The omens were not good.

Numbers had gone up for the first time since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

They showed that black people were eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people; Asians were three times as likely.

The government has now set up a new unit to try to pin-point the problem.

Race relations

In one corner of the conference room was a figure the nation should recognise quite easily.

He stands tall and speaks to anyone who asks him his opinion.

Yet there is a look of world weariness about him.

Neville Lawrence has every reason to feel this way.

His teenage son Stephen was murdered, sparking the biggest examination into race relations in Britain since the Scarman Inquiry.

Toilets
Police are criticised for random crackdowns
This idea of a new unit is a waste of money, he said.

He told me that nothing has changed and that the government and police are letting people down.

"They're failing everybody because they are the law of the land, they are the ones who keep the peace," he said.

"They're the ones who make sure that people go about their daily duties and make people feel safe and they're not doing that."

New scheme

Black police officers have no problems with stop and search - as long as it is intelligence led.

But the disproportionality of the figures bugs them.

Many feel entire communities are being failed. Some tell me their trust is being lost.

The worrying thing, say NBPA officers, is that more black and Asian people are likely to be stopped and searched - whether the total numbers go up or down.

From April, seven police forces will pilot a new scheme where people will be given certificates every time they are stopped - even if they have not been searched.

It was one of the recommendations in the Stephen Lawrence report.

Ravi Chand, the President of the NBPA, described the pilot scheme as a "wonderful delaying tactic".

"The reality is we've been led down the garden path," he said.

Ethnic minority communities will be scrutinising future figures more closely than ever.

The government still has a long way to go to win them over.


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