Three in four British people support the power of the police to use ‘stop and search’ – and most people trust them to apply it fairly to ethnic minorities
Theresa May announced a series of measures to restrict the way the police can use their powers to stop and search the public on Tuesday. The Home Secretary said that misuse of the power had become an “unacceptable affront to justice”, after research found that 27% of stop and searches did not satisfy the requirement of “reasonable grounds for suspicion”. The power has been heavily criticised for being unfairly applied to members of ethnic minorities, with the Equality and Human Rights Commission reporting that black people were six times as likely to be stopped.
A new YouGov poll finds, however, that most British people support stop and search and are confident that the police use it fairly.
By 76-17% British people support stop and search. Opposition is slightly higher (27%) among 18-24 year-olds.
In America, where a similar policy knows as ‘stop and frisk’ is in use, YouGov research found that the power was disapproved of by 43-38% in 2013.
The majority (53%) also have confidence in the police to apply stop and search fairly to ethnic minorities, only here there are groups with greater scepticism: 18-24 year olds (44%), Labour supporters (44%) and Londoners (40%) in particular.
More generally, 65% are confident that the police in Britain treat ethnic minorities fairly.
The new restrictions, agreed to by all 43 police forces in England and Wales, remove the controversial “no suspicion” permission, whereby stop and search could be used even when police did not suspect a crime had been committed. But while Mrs May says that “Nobody wins when stop and search is misused. It can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police” YouGov’s survey finds that only 18% of British people say there should be more restrictions on the power.