Black men stopped and searched over 'fist bump', watchdog says

28 October 2020, 00:17 | Updated: 28 October 2020, 00:29

The Metropolitan Police have been told there is "much need for improvement" after a watchdog found black men were stopped and searched because they "fist bumped"
The Metropolitan Police have been told there is "much need for improvement" after a watchdog found black men were stopped and searched because they "fist bumped". Picture: PA

The Metropolitan Police have been told there is "much need for improvement" after a watchdog found black men were stopped and searched because they "fist bumped".

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) of recent cases involving the Met said the "legitimacy of stop and searches was being undermined" by a number of issues, including a lack of understanding about the impact of disproportionality and poor communication.

It also found that officers have been slow to end encounters even when they found no wrongdoing, including one case where a black man in possession of someone else's credit card was suspected of stealing it even after providing a credible explanation.

Read more: 'You can't win on stop-and-search', Afro-Caribbean ex-police officer tells LBC

In another, officers exercised stop and search powers after two black men fist-bumped, believing them to be exchanging drugs.

Handcuffs were also used in nearly all instances where the use of other tactics could have de-escalated the encounter, the watchdog said.

The failure of officers to use bodycam video from the outset and to seek further evidence after the initial grounds for the stop and search were unfounded were also highlighted.

The IOPC has now recommended 11 ways the Met Police can improve its use of stop and search powers.

The watchdog's recommendations include offering better education of powers to officers, improving monitoring from above, ensuring racial prejudice is removed and making sure the stop and search encounter is ended swiftly after suspicion is allayed.

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IOPC London regional director Sal Naseem said: "The review highlights the need for the Met to reflect on the impact this kind of decision-making is having.

"There is also a need to better support officers on the front line to do their jobs effectively with the right training and supervision so they aren't subjected to further complaints and investigation. There is clearly much room for improvement."

He added: "The review mirrors concerns expressed to us by communities across London.

"We saw a lack of understanding from officers about why their actions were perceived to be discriminatory.

"We recommended the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) takes steps to ensure that assumptions, stereotypes and bias (conscious or unconscious) are not informing or affecting their officers' decision-making on stop and search."

There were 558,973 stop and searches carried out in the year to March under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Pace) in England and Wales, according to Home Office figures published on Tuesday.

This is the highest number of stops and searches since 2013/14 (872,518), but still below the peak in 2010/11 (1,179,746), the report said.

It is also an increase of 193,419 (53%) compared to the 2018/19, when 365,554 searches were recorded.

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