Society diversity

“I am treated like another problem in society”: young Londoners on the reality of the stop and search

In the first of its kind, Met police and South London youths sat down together to openly discuss the complicated subject of stops and searches.

Shakara West-Khan, 17, Shauna Thompson, 17, Jhemar Jonas, 19, and Abdoul Lelo Ndambi, 23, spoke about their past encounters with the police as Ch Insp Annmarie Cowley, PS Gario Marsh and PC Nigel Pearce shared their own thoughts on the problem.

READ MORE:Heartbroken mother of murdered Croydon schoolboy, 14, says rumors her son was in a gang are totally untrue

Black community and police want safety, respect and understanding

The group was joined by Andrez Harriott, a youth justice practitioner whose goal was to help chair the complex conversation that was taking place at the Marcus Lipton Youth Center in Loughborough Junction.

The main result of this rare but vital meeting?

That the black community and the police force want safety, respect and understanding – but as history tells us, important values ​​like these have slowly degraded over time.

“I am treated like another problem in society”

With the topic of stop and research taking center stage, Andrez first asks the group to define stop and research.

“What is stop and search?” he asks.

Within minutes, it is clear that Shakara, Shauna, Jhemar, and Abdoul are unaware of the chronological steps officers are required to take by law during a stop and search.

Jhemar told the group about his previous arrest and search experiences
Jhemar told the group about his previous arrest and search experiences

Jhemar said first: “I have already been arrested and searched, I do not remember that I was ever given one of these forms to say why this search took place. needs to be followed, if you ask anyone including me what a stop and search looks like it’s very fuzzy.

“It’s not followed as you just described. In my experiences, I’ve been grabbed and yelled at even when I know I haven’t done anything. Most of the time when I was arrested and searched, I ‘I’m not treated like I’m a human being.

“I’m treated like I’m just another problem in society that needs to be treated thoughtlessly.”

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Later in the discussion, Ch Insp Cowley says the stops and searches disproportionately affect black men between the ages of 15 and 19.

This is certainly true, and we all know the statistics involved.

There were only six stops and searches per 1,000 whites from April 2019 to March 2020, compared to 54 per 1,000 blacks, according to the data.

Ch Insp Cowley adds: “We know that the majority of our checks and searches are done on young men – there is a disproportion between them all.

“But there is a much broader, complex systemic racism going on – we are seeing a disproportion in all parts of the public service, not just the police and checks and searches, but in the criminal justice system, health care. and education, you know that. “

Another question raised by the young people in the group is why the district police officers are not from this region, as that would restore a sense of community, suggests Abdoul.

However, one of the agents quickly explains the answers, explaining that this is a security item, as it is essential to protect the well-being of an agent.

The conversation turns to a diverse workforce.

Ch Insp Cowley admits that there is still “a tremendous amount of work to be done” in terms of a more diverse police force that is representative of the general public, but adds that the force is currently working “very hard” to achieve these goals. year after year. .

Police officers must follow
Police officers must follow “GOWISELY” when conducting a check and search


By definition, a stop and search occurs when the police have “reasonable grounds” to search a person for items such as illegal drugs, weapons and stolen goods.

However, to carry out a check and search, the police must follow the acronym “GOWISELY”:

– The land for research

– The object the officer is looking

– A mandate must be shown, especially for plainclothes officers

The officer must identify they are a police officer

The station where the officer works

– Law, anyone arrested and searched by a police officer has the right to copies of documents

– An agent must inform the person of his legal power, which gives the officer the right to stop and search

‘You are detained and that is why ”, informing the individual of the purpose and nature of the search

If GOWISELY is not properly followed by an officer, the stop and search may be considered illegal.

In exceptional circumstances such as section 60, officers can stop and search anyone in this area without the need for “reasonable grounds”.


Abdoul, from Camberwell, tells the group how he lay on the ground for two hours with his hands on his back while the police threw a party for two hours to search the house.

He recalled the experience later to MyLondon: “They searched for two hours and I was on my stomach, lying with my hands on my back. You would think wow, that would only happen in America, but this occurs here.

“When you think of a policeman you start to think of jail, arrest, arrest and search, but if you think rah, if they stop me and search me, that means they stop and search another boy, then another boy. But when they stop and search these boys, one of them might have something. But it’s just a shame that I didn’t get anything and that you wasted your time. But this is an init bet.

Abdoul has become a community leader across Brixton and beyond, he tells the group that the only thing he would like to change about stop and search tactics is for the police to have more empathy.

Abdoul explains to the group: “Imagine this young person whom you approach as someone who could be your nephew or your little brother.

“Just init empathy. Respect too, just making sure the kid gets it by saying, ‘you’re not here, you’re not being harassed, it’s just something going on here. moment to make sure you’re safe, and we “I’m going to keep doing this to other people. There’s no target.”

“Don’t make me feel left out and disrespectful, but at that point explain that something has happened and we want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Police trauma

“More and more police officers are called upon to be mental health workers, social workers, teachers – but the police are not trained to do so.

“Officers also see people being beheaded, they turn to sexual assault and domestic violence, they show up to see horrible things, and then they go home.” said Andrez, the group leader.

He is right. Cutting-edge research from the University of Cambridge revealed how 90% of police officers who were assessed as part of their investigation had been exposed to trauma. Whereas one in five people experienced symptoms of PTSD or complex PTSD within four weeks.

“It’s a very traumatic borough,” Andrez said of Lambeth.

Record number of police officers affected by trauma-related incidents
Record number of police officers affected by trauma-related incidents

To help combat this endemic, police have access to TRIM (Trauma Risk Incident Management), an effective program that allows officers to decompress with one another – while being assessed for additional support if needed.

Ira Campbell, the manager of the youth club, asks: “So I Is there a way that these similar things that happen to officers going through trauma could also apply to young people? “

It is clear that trauma, an emotional response to a deeply disturbing experience, is the common denominator in both the black and police community.

The conversation was vital for both parties to understand and learn from each other – it proved that there is still a long way to go to rebuild the relationship between the two, but it is certainly possible.

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