Viewed with Suspicion: The Human Cost of Stop and Search in England and Wales

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Police forces across England and Wales are using stop and search more than ever. Last year alone, the police carried out over two million stops, and a million stop and searches. But at the same time, the proportion of these stops and searches that lead to an arrest has declined significantly. Data also shows that Black people are stopped at seven times the rate of White people. Asians are stopped at twice the rate of Whites. 

The statistics are alarming. But what do they mean? What does this “disproportionality” mean in terms of people’s lives? How does it affect relations with the police and society as a whole?

The Open Society Justice Initiative conducted interviews with nine people whose lives have been directly affected by stop and search. The nine individuals come from London, Leicester, and Manchester. They are a small sample, but their stories echo those repeated day after day in the lives of ordinary people who happen to fit the stereotypes that feed ineffectual policing.

For those not on the receiving end of stop and search, it is easy to dismiss the experience as a minor inconvenience, something necessary to make everyone safer. Many are in denial about the real cost of stop and search. Failure to heed the warnings in these stories risks fostering a more damaged, more divided, and more dangerous society.