Study: Black Drivers in the UK More Likely to Be Stopped

Most vehicle stops are unrecorded, according to research by the policy coalition Stopwatch.

Posted: 02/04/2014 09:27 AM EST

In the U.K., Black drivers face a harder time with police, as they are more likely to be targeted for a stop, according to research by the coalition Stopwatch. The policy group monitors the stop-and-search activities of police forces in the U.K.

Stopwatch estimated that there were approximately 5.5 million vehicle stops between 2010 and 2011, by analyzing figures from the British Crime Survey. Ten percent of adult drivers in England and Wales are targeted by police for stops. 

However, there are no official statistics on the number of vehicle stops performed by police in the country because many of them go unrecorded. This practice leaves room for further racial discrimination to take place. Overall, Black people are stopped and searched by the police at more than seven times the rate of white people in the U.K., according to Stopwatch.

The Guardian reports:

Research commissioned by the group based on British Crime Survey data between 2008 and 2011 also found that Black people had reported higher levels of car stops in the past year than white people and that "the disproportionality could not be explained by any other social or demographic factors." Rachel Taylor of the legal firm Fisher Meredith, who is a member of Stopwatch, said the practice of stopping cars without recording the incident using section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 was alarming. It allowed officers to circumvent the conditions of reasonable suspicion that the driver is carrying an unauthorised weapon or drugs.

"This throws the power wide open to abuse, and research indicates that there are very high levels of racial disproportionality in its use," she said.

High-profile cases involving racial profiling and vehicle stops include Stuart Lawrence, the brother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, who last year launched a complaint against the Metropolitan police claiming he has been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment after being stopped by officers 25 times.

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(Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images)