Police still more than twice as likely to stop and search black people in Hackney

Clapton Square, 8 August 2011

Monday 8 August last year: police stop and search in Clapton Square, just north of Narrow Way. Photograph: Hackney Citizen

People from ethnic minority groups are still far more likely to be stopped and searched in Hackney, despite an overall drop in the number of searches, a police report has revealed.

In July last year 759 searches were conducted in the borough, compared to 286 in the same month this year. These figures are exclusive of searches conducted under the contentious section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion.

According to the report, presented by Superintendent Andy Walker of Hackney Police to Hackney Council at a meeting of its Community Safety and Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission, a black person in Hackney is more than twice as likely to be stopped and searched as a white person.

Figures also show that an Asian person is almost one and a half times more likely to be searched.

The disproportionality figures show little improvement from that of a year ago.


Jake Ferguson, Chief Executive of Hackney Council for Voluntary Service (Hackney CVS), believes that while much is being done, stop and search in Hackney still has “some way to go.”

Hackney CVS is the body behind the Young People’s Stop and Search Monitoring Group, an independent advisory group for young people that holds the Met to account for its stop and search practice in Hackney.

Mr Ferguson said there was an “inherent disproportionality problem” in the borough.

He said: “If they are stopped when very young and it is the only interaction with the police they’ve had, it reinforces views that they’re being victimised. If they’re young, wearing a hoodie, black, mixed race, male.”

Speaking to The Hackney Citizen, Superintendent Walker also admitted the figures were a problem. He said: “Disproportionality is part of a wider concern affecting many different issues. There is no simple, straightforward answer as to why it exists.”

Another troubling figure highlighted by the report is that an average of seven 10 to 14 year olds have been searched each month so far this year.

Mr Ferguson warned of what he sees as long-term consequences of these experiences for particularly young children: “Their perspective on police is going to be incredibly affected. I can’t see you having a positive view of police after that. Young people are going to be anti-stop and search and anti-establishment.”

He added: “Hackney needs new solutions to this problem.”


The number of searches under section 60 – which are monitored separately to the figures mentioned above – have also fallen. In the second half of 2013 twenty searches were conducted under section 60, compared to five in the first six months of this year.

Under section 60, a police officer may stop and search a person without suspicion, when authorised by a senior police officer, if it is believed that violence has or is about to occur.

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, expressed her concerns about the use of section 60. She said: “There is no doubt that non-evidential based stop and search is an inherently worrying and damaging approach to policing.

“The abuse of these powers has soured police-community relations in our inner cities for decades, you cannot have effective policing without the full confidence of communities.”

It is these relations that the Young People’s Stop and Search Monitoring Group seeks to address. Through engagement activities including football matches and drama performances, the group aims to improve dialogue between police and young people.

Deji Adeoshun, who heads up the Young People’s Monitoring Group, presented feedback from the engagement activities to the Community Safety and Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission.

Mr Adeoshun explained that the engagement activities had helped young people to feel more at ease and also empowered. He said: “The engagement work has led to better understanding between young people and police.”

Measuring success

A further problem related to stop and search is that Hackney police have no fixed way of measuring or defining its success.

From July 2013 to June 2014, arrest rates have remained roughly the same, with an average of 21 per cent of searches leading to arrest each month. This figure just exceeds a target of 20 per cent set by the police for arrests following stop and search.

Superintendent Andy Walker said there are various ways of gauging the success of stop and search as a policing tool.

It can be regarded successful if it yields a ‘high positive outcome rate.’ The police term ‘positive outcome’ indicates that the search produced incriminating evidence. The searched person is then not necessarily arrested. Instead the police might issue a drug warning or penalty notice, for example.

However, Superintendent Walker believes a search producing a ‘negative outcome’ still has the potential to be deemed a successful encounter: if the interaction was polite and respectful, and the person searched understands the officer’s reasoning for conducting the search.

In the first half of this year, just under half of searches resulted in or a ‘negative outcome’.

A low number of complaints registered with the police relating to stop and search could indicate that the community accepts the way it is practiced.

However, Superintendent Walker stressed that a low volume of complaints was also “not a raw measure of success”. He said the engagement activities have revealed that many young people do not actually formally register their complaints.

The police also use the feedback gathered in the engagement activities to assess how well they are implementing stop and search.

Superintendent Walker said: “In my view there will always be a place for stop and search.”

Mr Ferguson said that a lot of young people also understand the role stop and search plays in policing. He added: “But it should be done without disproportionality and it should be intelligence-driven.”