Page last updated at 04:48 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

More minorities scanned for ID

By Catrin Nye
BBC Asian Network

A Lantern fingerprint reader
The device allows officers to take fingerprints away from a police station

A disproportionate number of Asian and black people are being stopped by police and fingerprinted using a new mobile scanner, the BBC has learned.

Of the 29,000 people stopped, 14% were Asian and 16.5% black despite those ethnic groups representing just 4% and 2% of the population respectively.

The figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC.

Police said no single group was being targeted but human rights group Liberty said community relations could worsen.


The figures, between 1 November 2006 and 31 October 2008, showed 53% of those stopped were white, while 12% did not record their ethnicity and 4.5% were described as "other".

Twenty police forces across Britain are trying out the new mobile fingerprint scanner, called the Lantern, with the aim of making on-the-spot identity checks easier and faster.

Liberty said it was concerned the new scanner was another measure alienating ethnic minority communities.

Police forces trialling the Lantern
British Transport Police, Essex
Hertfordshire, North Wales, Bedfordshire
Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Kent
City of London, West Midlands, Metropolitan Police
Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Durham
Avon & Somerset, Greater Manchester
Leicester, Merseyside, Surrey, Thames Valley

The group has already been very outspoken about how trust between officers and young Asian males in particular can be damaged by stop-and-search powers used as part of the Terrorism Act.

Policy director Isabella Sankey said: "There's always the concern that innocent people feel like they've been unfairly stopped and searched.

"It's when those stats demonstrate that there's a certain part of the population that it happens to more, that you really have to worry."

But the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said no single group was targeted with these finger printers or any other stop-and-search powers.

"No one community is singled-out or targeted, criminals come from all backgrounds," said Acpo's Craig Mackey.

"We have conducted a major review of the use of these powers. We have updated our standard operating procedures, and briefing and training processes for officers to ensure stops are conducted without discrimination."

But Information Technology student Waleed Mirza, 19, from Barking in east London, disagreed.

Waleed Mirza
Student Waleed Mirza questioned why he was "always being stopped"

Mr Mirza said: "I don't see white people being stopped, I'm not trying to be racist but why is it always me being stopped?

"Just yesterday I was stopped and I'd done nothing wrong. I'm not happy about these finger printers.

"They say it's optional but if you don't want to do it you have to go down to the station, so they are forcing you. It's your privacy if you don't want to do it."

Baljit Jutla, a student from Upton Park, was more supportive.

He said: "It's good actually, yeah they shouldn't target the Asian community - they shouldn't be targeting anyone.

"But if they have done something wrong I prefer that they are caught, it's better than Asians being labelled as the ones that mess things up".

The mobile scanning device means police can take fingerprints away from a police station if they suspect the person is committing or attempting to commit an offence.

It can also be used if the name of the person is unknown, or an officer has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given is fake.

There are plans for an updated version of the device to be rolled out to all UK police forces from 2010 under a scheme managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency.

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