Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands

The Labour Party must to seize this opportunity presented by the police and crime commissioner elections with both hands, writes Rupert George of Release.

 

By Rupert George of Release

Jon Harvey is right to point out the already political nature of the elections for the police and crime commissioners. However, we should be far more prepared to politicise them than he proposes.

The existing political debate around stop and search, last year’s riots and the related fears around public safety should be central to these elections.

You are still seven times more likely (pdf) to be stopped and searched if you are black – and under Section 60 (no need for reasonable suspicion) this rises to 30 times more likely.

The recent review of stop and search sparked by last year’s riots, announced by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, could be seen as an acknowledgment that both the Scarman and McPherson inquiries had failed to impact on the way policing was being carried out in London.

Drugs are central to the problems regarding stop and search: of the half a million ‘reasonable suspicion’ stop and searches carried out by the Met Police last year around 50% were for drugs, less than 10% for weapons (pdf).

According to research by Professor Alex Stevens, young black men are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched for drug offences.

I had a conversation last year with a British Transport Police Officer about sniffer dog operations in London. He agreed that, although unintentional, their operations at tube stations targeted the young, the poor and those from BME communities.

There were never operations at Bank but there were plenty at Brixton; Tooting Bec, more affluent and white, saw far less operations than less white, less affluent Tooting Broadway.

It isn’t just about racial injustice, we currently do not have any figures on the degree of socio economic disproportionality in this area, however we can assume there is an issue here that is worthy of far greater investigation.

In 2004, in the Smith Institute publication, ‘Communities, Social Exclusion and Crime’ (pdf), Professor Roger Graef  makes reference to “an estate known as ‘Pigsville’ in North Shields police culture because of its poor families”.

This has to be placed in the context of the British Crime Survey figures that show white people are more likely to take drugs than those from BME communities and that young professionals have among the highest rates of drugs.

Perhaps this is at the root of the claims by Peter Hitchens that drug law enforcement is not taking place – if you are white and middle class your chances of being caught with drugs are probably up there with your chances of being in a plane crash.

The same member of the British Transport Police I spoke to attempted to rationalise our shared observation about drug law enforcement by saying middle class drug use wasn’t linked to anti-social behaviour.

The anti-social behaviour of the poor and young must have led to them being arrested for drug possession offences. This is clearly not about drug control and it’s hard not to view it as an outcome that was never intended by law.

Surely this opens up a huge debate about how the police serve our communities; what are the outcomes from policing that our communities want? The debate around the election of police and crime commissioners offers a huge opportunity to be overtly political, to perhaps reframe the debate around community safety as the key outcome for policing.

Concerned about drugs? The Europe Union’s drug monitoring organisation, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has evidenced how harsh legal approaches appear to have no greater impact upon rates of cannabis use.  The UK has a tough criminal justice response and yet one of the highest rates of drug use in Europe.

There are no positives to criminalising already disadvantaged young people for little purpose; charges for cannabis possession make up the bulk of the charges stemming from our drug law enforcement.

To a political party that sees seeking social justice and evidence based policy making as key to its ethos, the election of the police and crime commissioners should be a huge political opportunity to positively impact upon this deeply unfair aspect of British society. I would urge the Labour Party to seize this opportunity with both hands.

See also:

Policing is political already – why should police commissioners hide their allegiance?Jon Harvey, March 7th 2012

Boris is putting the police back behind desksJenny Jones, February 24th 2012

Ken vows to reverse Boris’s police cuts and “make the streets safer”Shamik Das, February 7th 2012

Resources, powers and accountability – the three big issues facing the police in 2012Kevin Meagher, January 5th 2012

Cameron “ignorant or disingenuous” on frontline police cutsWill Straw, August 11th 2011

36 Responses to “Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands”

  1. James Hargrave

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands: http://t.co/pCmv6xoA by @Release_drugs’ Rupert George

  2. BevR

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands: http://t.co/pCmv6xoA by @Release_drugs’ Rupert George

  3. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands http://t.co/2tXknwKT

  4. Pulp Ark

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the… http://t.co/2syRygv7 #Good_Society #Crime #law_and_order #police #muslim #tcot #sioa

  5. Aaron Jacklin

    RT @pulpark2012Police commissioners: Labour must seize the… http://t.co/R1f3Hzde #Good_Society #Crime #law_and_order #police #musli…

  6. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands http://t.co/4zcwhgrx

  7. BevR

    Police commissioners Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands http://t.co/kPdvjUD4 #wrb #spartacus #boycottworkfare #nhs #democracy

  8. Donald Vieth

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands: The same member of the British Transpor… http://t.co/Ma6LoRz8

  9. Jon Collins

    Labour must seize the opportunity presented by PCCs, Rupert George of @Release_drugs argues on @leftfootfwd http://t.co/TLifYD1A

  10. Barry Baines

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands: The UK has a tough criminal justice res… http://t.co/Hbm0Y7bv

  11. Release Drugs

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  12. Richard C Renson

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  13. TransformDrugPolicy

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  14. TalkingDrugs

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  15. Tom Lloyd

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  16. ColinW

    Labour are a party of drug warriors, just like the Tories. Only the LibDems have a sensible drug policy:

    http://act.libdems.org.uk/group/liberaldemocratsfordrugpolicyreform/forum/topics/current-liberal-democrat-drug

    …”Adopting a policy of not prosecuting possession for own use, social supply to
    adults or cultivation of cannabis plants for own use.
    Repealing Sections 8 (c) and (d) of the Misuse of Drugs Act so that it is no longer a
    crime for the occupier or manager of premises to permit someone to use cannabis
    on those premises.”

    …”Ending the use of imprisonment for possession for own use of illegal drugs of any
    class.”

    …”Developing specialist heroin treatment clinics where heroin or heroin substitutes
    can be administered under controlled conditions, with other medical treatment
    and testing, and counselling and withdrawal programmes available, with the longterm
    aim of making such services widely available.”

  17. Niamh Eastwood

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  18. Fifa Rahman

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  19. Dee Lawal

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands: This has to be placed in the context of… http://t.co/Ul9S5z4W

  20. Geoff, England

    Police commissioners should NOT have any political party affiliation.

  21. Casey Vanderpool

    Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both … http://t.co/QHvSUecu

  22. Cannabis For Autism

    Very embarrassing racial skew here. Oh dear? http://t.co/eKId6E9O

  23. Michael Simpson

    While PCCs are a potentially useful lever, given that the focus here is on London, it seems remiss not to mention the fact that the new powers are already in place, having been assumed by the Mayor at the beginning of the year. The catalyst for change is in May.

  24. Anonymous

    I will not be voting for a police commissioner – even if I was standing in the election, – I intead tospoil my paper

  25. Democratic Society

    Noted: Labour must politicise the police commissioner elections http://t.co/q6D4sA0a

  26. Newsbot9

    Ha. We’ll see plenty of “hang em and flog em” types elected, and the police diverted to deal with poor areas.

  27. Marie Nougier

    Release's Rupert George writes a great blog for Left Foot Forward on disproportionate policing of drug offences http://t.co/19ODYpqW

  28. SSDP UK

    Police Commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands http://t.co/sztAiAIv #stopandsearch #drugs #Labour

  29. Levent Akbulut

    Police Commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands http://t.co/sztAiAIv #stopandsearch #drugs #Labour

  30. dotcombong

    Police Commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands http://t.co/sztAiAIv #stopandsearch #drugs #Labour

  31. Neurobonkers

    Black brits now 30x more likely to suffer section 60 search. Vast majority of searches for drugs http://t.co/yzqyUY2m

  32. Radium Yttrium

    Whoa RT @neurobonkers Black brits now 30x more likely to suffer section 60 search. Vast majority of searches for drugs http://t.co/ihitH2Wl

  33. Neurobonkers

    This is my fear too. The sad truth is votes won’t be based on rational, measured responses to the facts but will instead be based on the Daily Mail’s misinformation.

  34. LEAP UK

    Left Foot Forward blog on divisive search powers, and social disparity owing to our drug laws: http://t.co/UCwq8VJA

  35. Anonymous

    How anyone can take Peter Hitchens seriously is beyond me.

  36. Police Commissioners: Less machismo, more safeguarding vital services | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Police commissioners: Labour must seize the opportunity with both hands 9 Mar […]

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