By Emily Ledger
London’s Metropolitan Police Force could soon change the way they utilise stop and search tactics and deal with cannabis possession. The change would come amid concerns that stop and search procedures are damaging to community relations and have little impact on the illegal drugs market.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, has drawn up a number of proposals designed to ease concerns over police powers and their impact on race relations. More potential changes are also expected to be announced this week.
Police stop and search powers have come under increasing criticism as statistics continuously reveal that black individuals are more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts. Drug possession is the most common reason given by officers when using stop and search tactics.
A report published in February revealed that black people were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched. Furthermore, black people were 18 times more likely to be stopped under Section 60 – where no reasonable suspicion is required – than white people.
However, numerous studies and statistics have shown that black and white people use drugs, including cannabis, at similar rates. Furthermore, nothing is found in 80% of stops for suspicion of drug possession.
These occurrences have led many people to consider stop and search tactics an excuse to harass black people as tensions grow between police and people of colour.
According to the Guardian, these actions make “black youngsters feel it is an excuse to harass them.”
The effectiveness of police stop and searches for potential drug possession has come under debate in recent years. The report released last month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary questioned whether this was an effective use of police time and power, considering that so little is found.
The same report pointed also pointed out that searches of black people were more likely to be carried out without prior intelligence. Officers were also found to record weaker grounds for searches.
The potential changes would be part of London Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s ‘race action plan’. During research for the plan, The Guardian reports that black Londoners said that “enforcement of cannabis possession was a large part of why they felt targeted by the police”.
The changes to Met stop and search tactics come amid concerns over race relations and increasing calls for the powers to be abandoned. Other initiatives that will be part of the race plan include community panels with improved racial representation.
The Mayoral election, set to take place in May, could potentially spell more changes to the policing of cannabis possession in the Capital. The Green Party Mayoral candidate, Sian Berry, revealed last month that she plans to ‘deprioritise’ cannabis policing if she is elected. This would potentially mean that stop and search practises based solely on “smelling cannabis” would be ceased.