Keith Jarrett, the leader of the National Black Police Association has been branded ‘reckless’ and ‘foolish’ after he called for police to stop and search More young black people to tackle gun crime.
Jarrett, who is about to end his term as president of the NBPA, sparked outrage when he made the comment as part of a speech held at the group’s annual conference in Bristol last week.
Before the meeting Jarrett told a national newspaper: ‘from the return that I am getting from a lot of black people, they want to stop these killings, these knife crimes, and if it means their sons and daughters are going to be inconvenienced by being stopped by the police, so be it. I’m hoping we go down that road.’
Jarrett continued: ‘ I am going to be pressing him [Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police] to increase stop and search. It’s not going to do down very well with my audience, many of whom are going to be black. We have talked about the disproportionate use of stop and search in the past, but what I am proposing is quite the reverse. The black community is telling me that we have to have a look at this.
Jarrett’s comments contradict the approach so far taken by the NBPA, which has questioned the high proportion of black people stopped and searched by police. Home Office figures continue to show that black people are six times more likely to be stopped than white people. The February 1999 Macpherson Report into the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence strongly criticised the use of stop and search by police officers.
Its use is also considered to have been a major factor in precipitating the Brixton riots in 1981. In the wake of the south London uprising, new rules for stop and search determined that offices required ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an offence had been committed. Yet its use against the black community has continued to attract claims of racism.
David Michael, founder and past chairman of the Black Police Association, says Jarrett’s ‘self-serving’ outburst was nothing but an ‘attack against the black community.’ ‘Jarrett’s comments are very dangerous, ill-considered, reckless, irresponsible, a gross act of treachery and a devastating outrageous attack against the black community.’ Michael fumed. ‘I was disappointed, outraged and thought he had let himself, the BPA movement, the police service, human rights champions and the community down, he continued.
‘Jarrett’s comment gives succour to racists, bigots and those police officers I believe he is pandering to, whose points of reference are rooted in the 1950s and 1960s. He gave no thought whatsoever about the implications and ramifications.’
Michael who served for 30 years with the Metropolitan Police Service and was promoted to Detective Chief Inspector, said he could not understand how Jarrett come to make such a statement: ‘Before he said anything, he should have consulted with exhaustive resources at his disposal, within the BPA movement, community groups and organisations, public officials, and other colleagues who have a good grasp and understanding of the complex issues. He should have also conducted a scoping exercise if exactly what was being done on the ground in operational terms and the empirical evidence of the use of stop and search in that context.’
Michael added: ‘He should also have realised that the consequences of a blitzkrieg of stop and search on the black community would lead to the annoyance, irritation and alienation of the very people we need to work in harmony and partnership with the police, local authorities and crime and disorder reduction partnerships.’
Until Jarrett’s speech this week, senior black officers have publicly agreed that stop and search risked criminalising and alienating ethnic minorities. Michael says Jarrett’s latest comments do not reflect the opinions of his peers: ‘He acted in a unilateral way without the authority and approval of the National BPA Cabinet or the National Executive Committee,’ Michael points out. ‘His remarks did not reflect the policy of the National Black Police Association or the BPA movement.’