Casey review Met Police stop and search ‘fundamental reset’: What the report tells us

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The Met Police’s use of stop and search is one of the areas discussed in Baroness Casey’s review.

The Casey review into misconduct in the Met Police calls for a “fundamental reset” of the use of stop and search unless the force can explain why it uses it on the scale it does.

Baroness Louise Casey‘s report, published last week, heavily criticised the current use of stop and search in London.

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The review found that Black Londeners are disproportionately subjected to stop and search, with the Met aware of this and seemingly unwilling to change its policy.

Casey is critical of the seeming lack of awareness of the effect of stop on search on the recipients, stating that “the research showed that larger numbers of Black people felt traumatised and humiliated by the experience of stop and search”.

She contends that this makes it harder for police to effectively do their jobs, and goes against the idea of policing by consent set out by Sir Robert Peel, on which the whole Met Police is based.

The report states: “Throughout this Review, officers at every level repeatedly told us that they understood that ‘every contact leaves a trace’, meaning that every interaction a police officer has with a member of the public has an impact.”

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It goes on to add: “Yet the Review has not seen evidence of how the Met has built this approach to its application of stop and search as a crime fighting tool.”

Baroness Louise Casey arriving at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre for the press briefing of her review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service. (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)Baroness Louise Casey arriving at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre for the press briefing of her review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service. (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Baroness Louise Casey arriving at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre for the press briefing of her review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service. (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The Casey review also examines the effectiveness of stop and search on the whole, and cites research from the US that suggests its overall effect on crime reduction is relatively weak (13%).

However, the same research finds that the level of distrust in policing is “twice as high” among those who’ve been stopped as compared to those who haven’t, and that people who had been searched by authorities had a “significantly more negative attitude towards police”.

The review paints a picture of a police force that is highly reliant on a tactic with minimal effectiveness in stopping crime, but that has a potentially quite detrimental effect on how the public views the Met - with significant knock-on effects on cooperation and how likely people are to report a crime.

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Casey states: “Stop and search is currently deployed by the Met at the cost of legitimacy, trust and, therefore consent.”

She adds: “To date, the Met has been unable to explain clearly enough why its use is justified on the scale it uses it, and in the manner and way it is carried out, particularly on Black Londoners.”

The report concludes that a fundamental reset will be needed on the use of stop and search unless the Metropolitan Police can fully explain why it uses it so frequently and justify on whom it is disproportionately used.

Some of the issues higlighted in the report relating to stop and search include:

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A lack of communication

On the popularity of stop and search, the Casey report states: “A recent report examining the experience of Black communities nationally on stop and search shows that while 77% of Black adults support the use of stop and search in relation to suspicion of carrying a weapon, less than half of those who had been stopped and searched felt that the police had communicated well with them or explained what would happen.”

It adds: “The MOPAC Public Attitude Survey shows that there is widespread support for the use of stop and search among the public in London. This rose over time from a low of 66% in 2014-15, to a high of 85% in mid-2019, reducing again to 70% by 2022. This public support is not shared equally among respondents’ demographic groups, with 77% of White British respondents agreeing stop and search should be used compared to 53% of Black respondents in the most recent survey.”

The issue of racial disparity

The figures laid out in the Casey review are stark, stating: “In every year since 2016, those between 11 and 61 who appear to be Black have been at least 3.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the Met than their white counterparts.

“In the previous year, one in four Black males aged 15-24 in London were stopped and searched in a three-month period. This is broadly the same level of disproportionality described in the Macpherson Inquiry in 1999.

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“Figures like these are neither new nor unreported. Enough evidence and analysis exists to confidently label stop and search as a racialised tool.”

It later adds: “The Met accepts that it (stop and search) is used disproportionately. They have said publicly that this happens because they target areas of high crime which tend to be poorer areas where Black communities are more likely to live.

“It has also said that the Met is saving young Black lives by using stop and search in the way they do, as young Black boys and men are not only more likely carry a knife, but also more likely to suffer from someone else using that knife. Pictures of obtained knives and other serious weapons are posted online to back up the use of stop and search.”

On the fairness of stop and search as a police policy

Age and race seem to play a big role in feelings towards the tactic, with the report stating: “The MOPAC Public Attitude Survey also asked whether the use of stop and search is fair. The number of people who agreed rose from 72% in 2014 to 79% at the end of 2019, then reduced to 60% in the most recent survey.

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“However, around half of respondents under 25, and fewer than 50% of Black or Mixed ethnicity respondents were confident that stop and search is being used fairly in London.”

The Met Police

A Met Police spokesperson said: “Stop and Search is a crucial tactic in helping reduce violent crime and leads to almost 400 dangerous weapons being take off the streets every month, helping to keep London safe.

“However if it is done wrong, this tactic can have a detrimental impact in building trust between the police and communities. We know that Black communities have lower confidence in the police, especially young Black men. That is why we are redoubling our efforts to listen, engage and explain why we do what we do, to make improvements based of individuals ‘lived experience’ and to build more trust.

“Sir Mark Rowley has commissioned new data driven research to look at how we can be more precise in our use of stop and search and how we can do it better by collaborating with our communities.”

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At the time of the report’s publication, Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: “This report sparks feelings of shame and anger but it also increases our resolve.

“I am proud of those people, our officers and staff, whose passion for policing and determination to reform moved them to share their experiences with such honesty.

“This is, in many ways, their report. It must be a catalyst for police reform.

“This report needs to lead to meaningful change. If it only leads to pillory and blame of the exceptional majority of officers then only criminals will benefit.

“We need it to galvanise Londoners, the dedicated police majority and politicians to coalesce around reform and the renewal of policing by consent for the 21st century.”