Police chief's racism crackdown vow

SUFFOLK'S top policeman has denied that his officers have more suspicion of people from black and minority ethnic communities - despite a report suggesting otherwise.

Anthony Bond

SUFFOLK'S top policeman has denied that his officers have more suspicion of people from black and minority ethnic communities - despite a report suggesting otherwise.

Chief Constable Simon Ash also said he could not rule out that officers in the county held racist views, but vowed to crackdown on those who did not meet the force's core standards.

His comments followed the release of a report yesterdayinto the use of Suffolk Constabulary's stop and search powers - with recent figures showing that black people in the county are eight times more likely to be stopped by officers than white people.


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The report, compiled by Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), surveyed police officers and members of the public.

It discovered that - although no evidence of racism was found - some officers held views which were racially stereotyping particular groups.

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Chief Constable Ash said: “You can never completely rule out that people employed in our organisation do not have prejudices, it is part of all people in society.

“But I do know that as an organisation we are very clear that one of our core values is that we treat people with fairness and respect and wherever it is evident that those standards are not being met then we will challenge them and take whatever action is appropriate in the circumstances.”

The report made a series of recommendations including:

§ More engagement with groups within the communities where tension exists.

§ Better supervision given to officers carrying out stop and searches.

§ ISCRE being used as a reporting centre for stop and search complaints by members of the community.

The report, which will go before Suffolk Police Authority next week, concluded by saying that “there is generally more suspicion of black and minority ethnic people by the police and members of the public, which is not helped by a negative media portrayal of black and minority ethnic people.”

But Chief Constable Ash denied his officers were more suspicious of people from black and minority ethnic groups.

“I do not agree that generally there is more suspicion of black and minority ethnic people by the police, as a bland statement I do not subscribe to that,” he said.

The report also dispelled the myth that the increase in stopping and searching of black males was due to an increase in black drug dealers coming to Suffolk from London.

Investigations revealed the addresses of the 2,287 people stopped in Ipswich between June 2007 and June 2008 and only 40 lived in London - the equivalent to 1.7%.

Jane Basham, director of ISCRE, said: “We have identified lots of areas for action that could contribute towards the disproportional figures from police stop and searches and through the work of ISCRE and the police around the action plan we should start to see maybe some positive impact.”

Chief Constable Ash said overall he was “very pleased” with the report, which will hopefully help enable the force to address the situation.

He added: “It is also important to say that stop and search as a crime fighting tool is an important part of the police armoury and there are large parts of the community that want us to use it.

“But the challenge is that we do it in a sensitive and responsible way because the use of stop and search goes right to the heart of community confidence and if we use those powers in a way that undermines that confidence then that is not a good position to be in.”

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