Policing / Stop and search / Use of force


Posted on 01 Jun 2022

Liberty, the UK’s leading human rights organisation, has warned that ministers are out of step with the public, as new polling shows the public believe the Government should focus on tackling the root causes of crime rather than expanding police powers that discriminate against people of colour.

The findings come as Home Secretary Priti Patel recently announced a raft of new police powers, including the decision to expand stop and search, and to allow volunteer officers to carry tasers.

Polling for Liberty by nfpRsearch found:

  • Seven in ten people (68%) believe that the Government should focus on tackling the root causes of crime, rather than continually expanding police powers and criminalising people and communities
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of people agree that the police should not use tools or tactics which discriminate against people of colour.

Liberty has warned that expanding police powers, and removing safeguards around stop and searches, will lead to more people of colour being subjected to discriminatory policing.

In November, following legal action from Liberty and StopWatch, the Home Secretary was forced to U-turn on plans to scrap safeguards on Section 60 stop and search and admitted that the equality impact assessment used to inform the decision wasn’t up to scratch.

Now, organisations have warned that lifting the safeguards will disproportionately affect people of colour, and will worsen divisions between police and communities – with Black people already 14 times more likely than white people to be stopped and search by police under suspicionless Section 60 stops. These stops are often based on racist stereotyping, and figures show that more than three quarters (77%) of stop and searches result in no further action – meaning nothing of interest was found.

The move to arm volunteer police officers with tasers has also been condemned as dangerous, with concerns raised about the consequences of the use of the weapons. In March, a Metropolitan police officer was charged with grievous bodily harm after a Black man was shot with a taser and left paralysed from the chest down.

With stop and search widely known to disproportionately affect people of colour, particularly Black people, and without evidence that it is effective, Liberty warn that these figures show that the Government’s new plans are unlikely to receive backing from the public.

Emmanuelle Andrews, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty, said:

“We all want to feel safe in our communities – but the public agree that expanding police powers isn’t how we get there. It’s clear from these figures that Priti Patel is completely out of step with public opinion when it comes to dealing with problems like serious violence.

“The new measures announced last week by the Home Secretary will serve only to widen existing divisions and put more people – particularly people of colour and children – at risk of police harassment and abuse of power. Research has shown that these powers, like Section 60 stop and search, are not evidence based, are ineffective and are used unfairly against people of colour especially.

“Instead of investing further in these misguided police powers, the public want to see the Government tackling the root causes of social issues – like poverty, housing, health and education. If the Government really wants to create safer communities, they must invest in community-led interventions which have fairness, participation and human rights at their heart.”


Habib Kadiri, Research and Policy Manager at StopWatch, said:

“When government policy is at odds with public sentiment, it ought to be supported by the evidence.

“However, the home secretary’s decisions over Section 60 stops and use of force tactics appear to be devoid of substance.

“They can only make sense when you understand that it is a top priority of this government to criminalise the most marginalised and impoverished communities in this country all in the name of restoring “law and order”.

“Expanding police powers will do nothing to solve societal harms or improve relations between the police and the communities they purportedly serve.”

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