Sorry to go slightly off target, but I could barely believe this article by Ian Blair in the Guardian. It’s a defense of the stop-and-search without any justification, reason or suspicion powers that are currently (and have been for years) in operation over the entire of Greater London and have recently been ruled a breach of human rights.
The argument at the end was just unbelievable. Read it and make your own judgment, but the last paragraph could be paraphrased – let us stop and search who we like, because if you don’t we’ll do it anyway and stop and search powers make it look like we’re doing this to everyone without bias; if you take that away, it’ll become obvious we’re targeting Muslims.
Does he seriously think that’s a persuasive argument? I mean, really? Oh, and read the article – does he cite any evidence to back up the numerous claims he makes? If I was marking this as a paper he wouldn’t be doing well on that front!
I live in North London, so I’ve been subjected to one of these things whilst trying to go about my daily commute. It was painfully obvious that a) the people searching me were pretty incompetent (unable to describe my appearance to within half a foot of accuracy, unable to search my bag effectively) and b) that I had been picked out to make the statistics look better (I’m white and female).
Let’s get some things straight. When asked to, I gave my details not because I was happy to help, but because I don’t trust the police not to use that as an excuse to pull me aside for a further search, more hassle, or an arrest. I just wanted to get on with my commute, so I gave in. Additionally, if I ever hope to work academically or travel outside the EU, I can’t risk an arrest for anything, even wrongful arrest. This means that I don’t have a right to peaceful protest here, because we’ve all seen how heavy handed the police get in London.
Secondly, stop-and-search does not make me feel safer. I’m not an idiot – I can see that the police were largely pulling over young black guys and young Asian guys. I could see how that made those guys feel, I saw the expressions on their faces and heard what they said. The hatred, the alienation that gets built up as a result of these actions is going to come back to trouble us. When I see hawk-eyed officers staring at me when I get off the tube, or off the train, onto a bus, or I’m waiting in line at an airport it doesn’t make me feel protected and safe. Particularly not when they carry mace, long-handled batons and guns. Knowing they can stop and search me for no reason whatsoever is just icing on the cake of a really bad public relations problem.