Newham Monitoring Project today launched a crowdfunding project to put ‘stop and search on trial’ with the support of its patron, the poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah.
The ‘Stop and Search on Trial’ campaign is hosted by Crowdfunder and seeks to monitor the way the government implements its planned reforms, announced in August, of the use of police powers to stop and search members of the public.
NMP wants to work with communities across east London, particularly young people, to see whether these reforms make any difference to their experience on the streets. NMP aims to persuade individuals to contribute towards the costs of a worker who can provide legal rights information and assist those who are unhappy about their treatment to make a complaint.
The government’s package of reforms is a response to growing public concern about the misuse of stop and search: in particular, the high levels of racial disproportionality. The Home Office intends to measure its success by the number of complaints about stop and search, but NMP believes this fails to address the fact that complaint rates for stop and search remain very low. An investigation into stop and search by the Police and Crime Committee and London Assembly in 2014 reported:
“The IPCC notes that “people who are unhappy with stop and search encounters – in particular, young people and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds – have the least confidence both in the police and the police complaints system.” This reflects public concerns that making a complaint can lead to harassment and is perhaps no surprise given that the majority of race complaints are not handled well by the Met. All this means that complaints cannot be relied on as an accurate measure of public attitudes, nor can a lack of complaints be seen as an indication of good practice.”
Benjamin Zephaniah has spoken about his support for the project in a short video launched as part of the campaign today. He said:
“Black people are still six time more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. The government says they plan to bring in new reforms concerning the way people are stopped and searched; we want to watch this, we want to make sure they are doing the right thing. We want to get young people to talk about their experiences when they get stopped, to report things and we want to make young people aware of their rights.”
Estelle du Boulay, Director of Newham Monitoring Project said today:
“We believe that unless more people are supported to hold the police to account by making complaints – and are provided with expert, independent support through an often time-consuming and frustrating complaints process – then these reforms will fail to bring about genuine change.”
To support the campaign, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/stops-on-trial