Stop-and-Frisk: Not Just an American Problem

It isn’t only Americans suffering racist stop-and-frisks.

Minorities in Britain experience racially biased drug searches at rates comparable to their American counterparts, according to our new report, The Numbers in Black and White: Ethnic Disparities in the Policing and Prosecution of Drug Offences in England and Wales.

Someone is frisked for drugs every 58 seconds in England and Wales, with black people six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs than white people. Asians, meanwhile, were 2.5 times more likely to be subject to such searches, according to the report, launched by Release and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Moreover, Release—an Open Society grantee that produced the report with support from the Getty Foundation—found that black people in Britain are arrested for drugs at a rate of six times that of white people, compared to the three-to-one ratio in the United States.

This is despite the fact that drug use is lower among black and Asian people than whites.

To hear the personal stories of those who have experienced such searches, please see the Open Society project titled Viewed with Suspicion.

Discrimination, however, is not limited to searches. The Numbers in Black and White also found that the Metropolitan Police in London were treating black people caught in possession of drugs more harshly.

Across London, black people are charged for possession of marijuana at five times the rate of white people. Whites were more likely to get “cautioned,” which is a formal warning that can be issued by police for an offense. While it still forms part of a criminal record, it does not require a person to go to court, as is the case when a person is charged.

Beyond the damning figures, there is also a deafening silence from lawmakers who have not raised their voices against these disgraceful shakedowns. Though a lively debate about stop-and-frisk is taking place in the United States, particularly in New York, British leaders are mostly watching from the sidelines.

But the numbers show silence is not an option.

This report exposes the urgency of reviewing drug laws that are being enforced in a damaging and discriminatory manner. To call on the British government to review the national drug laws, please sign the petition initiated by Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, which is open to citizens of the UK.

Learn More:

1 Comment


You ask difficult questions :-)

When injustice is rooted at a third world country, everybody sings about it, and the singers get awards.

When similar injustice is done by the other side of the table, it is at best hushed up, and at its worst retaliated...


Add your voice