Stop and Search is in our 'armoury' but 'burns through trust', says Sir Mark Rowley

19 June 2023, 17:49

The Home Office wants police to be more ready to use their powers of stop and search
The Home Office wants police to be more ready to use their powers of stop and search. Picture: Alamy/Global

By Emma Soteriou

Stop and Search is in the police "armoury" but can burn through trust, Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has said.

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Home Secretary Suella Braverman urged police to increase the use of stop and search powers to stop the ‘scourge’ of weapons on the streets.

She said she wants officers to have the ‘confidence’ to be able to use the controversial tactic to prevent knife attacks.

But Sir Mark told the News Agents podcast that the tactic executed badly can result in it burning through trust in police.

"It's not an order," he said. "I don't think she would see it as an order. But I definitely don't take it as one.

"We are going to use the right tactics to tackle violence on the streets of London. Stop and search is a key tactic in that, so it is part of our armoury... If it's done badly, it burns through trust.

"So, whether a politician is philosophically enthusiastic or not about it is sort of interesting to the side… but surely the communities of London should expect us to be doing the right amount of stop and search in the right places that has the best effect on crime and keeping them safe and building their trust.

"That must be the most important driving factor, that professional evidence."

Comparing Ms Braverman's comments to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's views, Sir Mark said: "So, she's got a view about policing tactics, the Mayor [of London] has got views about policing tactics, they both express them. I listened to them."

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A female police officer performs a stop and search of a suspect in Walworth, Southwark during an all female operation by the Metropolitan Police, the first of its kind for the force on International Women's Day
A female police officer performs a stop and search of a suspect in Walworth, Southwark during an all female operation by the Metropolitan Police, the first of its kind for the force on International Women's Day. Picture: Alamy

In a statement to all 43 forces in England and Wales, Ms Braverman said officers who use the powers have her ‘full support.’

Critics say the tactic disproportionately targets black and ethnic communities.

She also wants police to arrest people and investigate instances where they unlawfully obstruct a ‘stop and search’ in progress.

She says police should release body-worn footage more quickly, so as to stop videos of people being arrested going viral on social media.

In remarks that appear to be aimed at addressing anticipated criticism, Braverman said young black males were disproportionately affected by knife crime.

Her statement said: “Carrying weapons is a scourge on our society, and anyone doing so is risking their own lives as well as the lives of those around them. This dangerous culture must be brought to a stop.

“My first priority is to keep the public safe, and people who insist on carrying a weapon must know that there will be consequences. The police have my full support to ramp up the use of stop and search, wherever necessary, to prevent violence and save more lives.

“Every death from knife crime is a tragedy. That’s why I also back the police in tackling this blight in communities which are disproportionately affected, such as among young black males. We need to do everything in our power to crack down on this violence.”

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The Home Office released statistics that say last year to March 2022, 99 young people lost their lives to knife crime in England and Wales, and 31 of those victims were black.

It argued that therefore black males are, therefore, disproportionately more likely to be killed by violence and knife crime.

The government said it ‘recognises’ the disproportionality in stop and search, saying black males are more likely to be targeted, but added “our first priority must be on prevention and public safety. “

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