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Media narrative on stop search "damaging to community relations"

Media narrative on stop and search is harmful to black community relations and recruitment, says a senior Metropolitan Police officer.

Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Roy Smith has said constantly portraying the use of stop and search as racial bias rather than a "life-saving" tool was detrimental to all parties. 

“I think the media narrative is damaging community relations further," he said. “We're not going to get the intelligence we desperately need from black Londoners and black communities."

He went on to say: "We are also at risk of discouraging black Londoners from wanting to join the Met, which is the very thing that we need to begin to rebuild trust and confidence.

“The more that we make this about a kind of us and them - everybody loses.”

C/Supt. Smith's comments follow the airing on Monday (31 May) of a Channel 4 Dispatches on stop and search and racism in London where 40 black men were asked to share their experience. 

The programme highlights how black men are nine times more likely to be stopped in search in London. “Yes, that's true,” said C/Supt. Smith, “But black Londoners are more than three times likely to be murdered in London.”

“If you're going to use a narrative that we're more likely to stop and search young black men – well, yes we are. But we're also more likely to save the lives of young black men too. So we've got to just be careful how we use the disproportionality argument.

“I think candidly, policing is getting a little bit sick and tired now, of constantly bearing the brunt of criticism. Whatever we do is wrong. We search too many people it’s wrong, and we search not enough and someone dies, it's wrong.”

C/Supt Smith said he was not denying that there have been some encounters “which have not been done properly”.

But he believes the Met looks to make improvements where it can, citing the recent review into pre-arrest handcuffing, and said “We are at absolutely not sat here saying we think we're the best thing since sliced bread and we're getting it perfect every time. We're recognising where we need to improve.

“But that doesn't detract from the fact that overwhelmingly, we are using this power fairly. We're doing so professionally. So there's a balance.”

Yesterday (1 May) a 17-year-old boy was stabbed in Hyde Park among crowds of people out in the evening sun. Onlookers screamed and ran as a group chased their victim waving machetes.

C/Supt Smith said: “This is the other part of the debate that is missing - ordinary Londoners, ordinary communities, out with children enjoying the capital, are absolutely terrified by groups like this roaming the street with weapons, and they expect the police to do something.

“The vast majority of Londoners want us to be out on the streets enforcing the law doing so fairly, but robustly.”

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