Lib Dem candidate slams Mayor of London on stop and search

Rob Blackie said Sadiq Khan had been “asleep on the job” over late delivery of a study on stop and search reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)
Sadiq Khan (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)

Sadiq Khan has been accused of being “asleep on the job” of reforming the Met Police, after it emerged that a study into stop and search has not been delivered – more than three years since it was promised.

The project was intended to examine how officers are using stop and search, through the use of body worn video cameras which police wear on their clothing.

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Rob Blackie said the mayor had “simply done nothing” to ensure the study’s completion. A Freedom of Information response from City Hall to Blackie in July this year stated there are “no current outcomes or timelines we can provide on the progression of the project”.

The mayor’s team told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the study had been “delayed due to data sharing issues” but insisted it was now “taking shape”.

The project was mentioned earlier this year in Baroness Casey’s scathing review of the Met’s culture, which found the force to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

According to her report, the study was first discussed by the mayor’s office and the Met in 2018, “but disagreements over the project’s aims, terms of reference and other matters meant that it wasn’t announced until November 2020 as part of the Mayoral Action Plan”.

Over the following two and a half years, disagreements between City Hall and the Met are said to have continued, including over who “would have access to the raw footage and how the videos would be coded”.

A look at the first collection of footage in July 2022 by the Mayor’s office found “huge variation across coders’ level of detail and on key information including use of Taser, use of PAVA [an incapacitant spray], subjects fleeing the scene, and subjects in possession of a weapon”.

Baroness Casey’s Review adds: “Officers were often coding the same encounter in very different ways.

“MOPAC [the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime] held debrief sessions with the Met in October 2022 to discuss the issues, but the Review was told only four of the initial 20 coders attended, some of whom had not done any coding.”

MOPAC paused the project indefinitely in November 2022. Attempts to resume the study since Baroness Casey’s report in March this year appear to have had little success, at least according to the response given to Mr Blackie in July, which said meetings between City Hall and the Met were “ongoing”.

Blackie said: “Sadiq Khan promised this study so that Londoners can properly understand how stop and search is being conducted in our city – but yet again it’s warm words and weak action from the mayor.

“Black Londoners continue to be disproportionately targeted by stop and search. The experience can be traumatic, so we urgently need this review to rebuild trust in stop and search… I’m astonished to find out that he’s [the mayor] simply done nothing.”

He added: “How can the Met Police learn how to be better when it’s not even bothering to review what’s gone wrong in the past? This is just another sign of a mayor who is asleep on the job.”

Blackie said Khan “must get this study done and publish the results before the election”, which takes place on May 2, 2024.

A spokesman for the mayor said he “is determined to improve trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police and to address real community concerns about the disproportionality in the use of certain police powers and tactics affecting Black Londoners”.

He said the November 2020 Action Plan “has already introduced stricter oversight of the use of stop and search in London by communities, completed a review of the use of handcuffs by officers before arrest which has led to a 20 per cent drop in the use of handcuffs in non-arrest scenarios – like stop and search – and carried out a pilot to identify any disproportionality relating to the ethnicity of drivers stopped by the police”.

He admitted however: “Clearly more must be done to tackle disproportionality and the Mayor will continue to support and hold the Met to account on delivering the urgent improvements needed.

“The Met are enhancing the supervision of all stop and searches as part of the New Met for London Plan and this work is alongside precision stop and search pilots in high crime areas to improve community engagement.”

He insisted that the study, “previously delayed due to data sharing issues, is also taking shape”.

A Met Police spokeswoman said the force will “continue to actively work with the mayor’s office to progress the body worn video camera study”.

She also said: “Whilst Stop and Search is a significant tool and tactic in combatting crime, we know that when done wrong it can have a significant impact on individuals and the wider community….

“The Met are trialling a new approach called ‘Precision Stop and Search’. It’s precise in that we will be trialling it in areas with high numbers of weapon enabled crime and precise in the way in which we engage at a hyper local level, with members of the community who will be most affected.

“As part of this, we have also been reviewing body worn video to ensure that the training officers take part in, is being reflected in the stops that they deliver – that is in ensuring that the encounter is positive and respectful.”

She added that every London borough has an independent Stop and Search Community Monitoring Group, and that body worn video is further scrutinised through Police Encounter Panels (PEPs), which are co-chaired with the community.

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