A CHARITY has suggested relations between the police and public are deteriorating after figures showed thousands more stop and searches were conducted last year.

Home Office data shows officers in Essex used stop and search powers 26,043 times in the year to March – up from 20,121 the year before.

The proportion of searches which led to an arrest rose from 10 per cent to 11 per cent over this period.

Across England and Wales, the number of stop and searches rose from 577,000 in 2019-20 to 704,000 in 2020-21.

This means almost 2,000 people were stopped per day on average last year, with figures peaking in mid-May 2020, when there were almost 3,000 searches each day.

But the national arrest rate fell from 13 per cent to 11 per cent – the lowest level since 2012-13.

StopWatch UK said the vast majority of searches cause more problems than they solve.

Habib Kadiri, research and policy manager at the police monitoring organisation, said a fall in arrest rates reflects fears that police-community relations are backsliding.

The figures also show that across England and Wales, black people were significantly more likely to be searched than white people, though slightly less so than the year before.

In Essex, they were 3.9 times more likely to be stopped, compared to 4.2 in 2019-20.

Mr Kadiri added: “What is exceptional is how racial disparities persisted even during a global pandemic, proving that the police never stopped working tirelessly to overpolice people of colour.

“We simply would not accept this of any other emergency service profession.

“The police must do better.”

In Essex, 71 per cent of stop and searches were for drugs – up from 66 per cent in 2019-20, and a record high.

Reacting to the national figures, Dr Laura Garius, policy lead for Release, which comprises experts on drug laws, said black and other ethnic minority individuals are being disproportionately targeted, despite drug use being no higher among these groups than among the white population.

She added: “The declining find and arrest rates are further proof that these powers are overused, ineffective, and harmful to black and brown communities – in particular, black men – as well as those living in lower-income areas.”

The Home Office said police used extra officers and resources to tackle drug crime during the coronavirus lockdown, and also removed almost 16,000 dangerous weapons from our streets.

A spokesman added: “No one should be targeted for stop and search because of their race and there are extensive safeguards in place to prevent this.”

On stop and search, Essex Police previously said the powers are used as a "valuable tool to detect and prevent crime", adding it trains officers on interaction with the person stopped.
The force said: "We also understand it can be intrusive and has a direct impact on individuals and communities, which is why its use is under continual review to ensure we’re using it proportionately and legitimately.

“We are working hard to ensure that black, Asian, and other communities are not being impacted by stop and search disproportionately.

“We have launched our Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion working group to specifically address this issue.

“In the year to June 2021, the rate at which members of the black or Asian community were disproportionately impacted by stop-and-search had halved."