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Churches question police stop and search practice

 The Churches' Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ) has reacted with dismay at newly-released Home Office figures, which show a massive rise in stop and search of people from Asian backgrounds. The same statistics reveal that the proportional number of African Caribbean people stopped and searched was more than double those for white people. Home Office statistics showed that of all stop and searches, there was a 17 per cent increase in searches for whites, a 38 per cent increase for black people and a 36 per cent increase for Asians. The majority of the searches were carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. The Moderator of CCRJ, the Revd Myra Blyth said: "The alarming increase in the use of stop and search powers by the police needs to be carefully evaluated. Of course every effort needs to be taken to safeguard the population against acts of terrorism, this is not in question. The issue under debate here is, how much stop and search measures are being used to excess and in a racially targeted way, using the issue of security as the legitimisation. The statistics alone are enough to increase tension and to destabilize communities, making them more dangerous rather than safer places. A Public Inquiry is needed to show where and why these special powers have been so extensively used and to reflect in an open and objective way about the actual impact over against the intended impact these measures have had on communities." The Revd Arlington Trotman, Secretary of CCRJ, a commission of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, said: "The enormous increase in these figures disturbingly shows that Black and minority ethnic communities continue to experience unjust and unfair treatment at the hands of police. It is of course vital that all communities are encouraged to work together to assist police in these difficult times, particularly in the need to deter evil, but these figures show that targeting Muslim and Black communities in this unjust way will neither deter terrorists, nor enhance police - community relations, which is vital to effective policing. The lessons of the Stephen Lawrence report seem not to have been learned. Stop and search can be a very useful tool only if it is applied with justice and fairness."