On the Police
After the news that the Home Secretary has threatened legal reform to prevent the abuse of ‘Stop and Search’ policy by the Police force, the institutional racism of the Constabulary has come into sharp focus yet again. From Swamp 81 to Schedule 7, ethnic minority bodies, particularly those of African Caribbean and south Asian men, have come under the perpetual scrutiny of the Metropolitan Police for years and the use of draconian laws to over-police marginal groups remains a serious threat to community cohesion in the capital.
Acts such as Section 60, or, until its repeal in 2010, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, gave unequivocal powers to the Police to stop and search people without specific intelligence or reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing. Despite claims that Stop and Search laws are designed to mitigate racial profiling, the fact remains that a disproportionate number of ethnic minority Londoners are apprehended by the Police daily.
Whilst these officious tactics have created friction for decades, the effect on the community goes far beyond a simple mistrust of the powers-that-be. Indeed, what minority Londoners fear most is not the grave indignity of being frisked in the street, instead it is the fear of state sanctioned violence that scares many into submission. In the light of countless stories of Police brutality, such as the shooting of Mark Duggan (which sparked the city-wide riots of 2011) and the recent death of Sean Rigg in Police custody, BAME Londoners often choose to forgo their right to refusal, instead capitulating in silence so that they can walk away from an encounter with the law unscathed.
It is a terrible injustice that ethnic minority communities are further marginalised by the very powers that are mandated to protect them. There is a long-standing and pervasive fear of the Metropolitan Police Force, and it is the responsibility of the Constabulary to prove to the communities in question that all are equal before the law.
One positive change we can make is to encourage Londoners to exercise their rights when confronted with the Police, so that they may feel empowered to reasonably engage with Officers without the fear of reprisal. It is our democratic right to demand that justice in the capital is met without prejudice or censure and our unity as a city depends on it.