Black people in Essex continue to be disproportionately targeted by Essex Police, data has revealed.
The latest government figures, looking at the year to March 2020, show that Black people are much more likely to be stopped by police in Essex.
It’s just over a year since the murder of George Floyd shook the world when Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, killed him by kneeling on his neck.
A horrific video of his death was shared across social media and sparked protests from the Black Lives Matter movement.
While the incident happened in the US, concerns were raised regarding discrimination against Black people in the UK by police.
The latest data shows that Black people in Essex were still much more likely to be targeted with stop and search as well as have force used against them and be detained under the Mental Health Act compared to white people.
Nationally, Black people were also still far more likely to die either during or following police contact.
Alastair Pringle, interim chief executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “The police play a pivotal role in keeping us all safe, and to build and maintain trust we need a representative justice system that reflects the people it serves and protects.
“Police forces, the Home Office and Police and Crime Commissioners must continue with their efforts to increase racial diversity within the police and to ensure there is transparency and accountability for their use of stop and search powers to avoid any suggestion of discrimination.”
Despite an increase in the overall number of police officers employed by Essex Police Force in the last year, only five of them were Black in 2019/20 – the same number as 2018/19.
Just 0.1 per cent of the force are Black, which was down slightly from 0.2 per cent, while 95.2 per cent are white.
It means the force is much less diverse than the actual population of Essex, with white people making up 92.4 per cent of residents, and Black people 2.2 per cent of the population.
Meanwhile, Black people were nearly five times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by Essex Police in 2019/20 – although the difference was slightly smaller than the year before.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet, however, stated that the rate at which members of the Black or Asian community were disproportionality impacted by stop and search in the year to June 2021 had halved.
The ethnicity gap – in the use of Section 60, which allows police to stop people without suspicion a crime has taken place – has actually increased, with Black people in Essex now also five times more likely to be stopped and searched using this power, up from less than four times in 2018/19.
Black people were also more than four times more likely to have force used against them by Essex Police than white people, and again the gap had widened slightly between 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Use of force includes tactics such as handcuffing, other restraint, use of batons, irritant sprays, tasers and firearms.
At the same time, Black people in Essex were more than 60 per cent more likely than white people to be detained by police under the Mental Health Act last year – and again that gap had grown.
Under the Act, police can formally detain a person if they appear to have a mental disorder, in the interests of their own health or safety, or for the protection of other people.
Local figures on deaths during or following police contact are not broken down by ethnicity. However, the national figures show that Black people are more than 60 per cent more likely than white people to die either during or immediately after having contact with police – although the gap had closed very slightly in the last year.
These include deaths from road traffic incidents involving police vehicles, police shootings, and apparent suicides following police custody.
They also include deaths in or immediately following police custody – for example where injuries that contributed to the death were sustained during the period of detention.
Deaths following other contact with police that did not involve an arrest are also included, where they are under independent investigation – which only happens after the most serious incidents.
In particular, Black people are more than seven times as likely to die from police shootings, and more than twice as likely to die from road traffic incidents and in or immediately following police custody.
The only type of death where Black people were less likely than white people to have been a victim were apparent suicides following police custody.
“No one should be targeted because of their race”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “No one should be targeted because of their race and we continue to work with the police to ensure use of stop and search is lawful, proportionate and intelligence-led.
“Tragically, data shows that young black men are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of knife crime.
“Stop and search tackles violence and saves lives, by reducing this type of crime and protecting vulnerable individuals. Last year it helped remove 11,000 dangerous weapons from our streets.
“The recruitment of 20,000 additional police officers presents a once in a generation opportunity for forces to become more representative of the communities they serve.”
They added: “Our police forces are more diverse than ever before, with 10,218 Black Asian and Minority ethnic officers employed in forces across England and Wales.
“However, we know there is more to be done, which is why the Policing Minister recently wrote to all forces urging them to seize the opportunity to recruit from a range of diverse backgrounds and welcome the best talent from across their local communities.”
“We are working hard to ensure that Black Asian and other communities are not being impacted by stop and search disproportionately”
Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Prophet, stressed that Essex Police work hard to ensure no minority community is impacted disproportionately.
He added that in the year to June 2021, the rate at which members of the Black or Asian community were disproportionately impacted by stop-and-search has halved.
He said: “Stop and search is a valuable tool to detect and prevent crime and help to keep communities safe.
“However, we also understand it can be intrusive and has a direct impact on individuals and communities, which is why its use is under continual review to ensure we’re using it proportionately and legitimately.
“We are working hard to ensure that Black, Asian, and other communities are not being impacted by stop and search disproportionately.
“In September 2020 we launched our Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion working group to specifically address this issue.
“As part of this we are working with our network of Independent Advisory Groups (IAGs) and other community groups to identify the best way to talk to different communities about the impact of disproportionality.
“Through this greater understanding we can review and improve the process.”
Constable Prophet added: “We are introducing additional training for officers focussing on how they interact with the person who has been stopped, especially where nothing has been found, to ensure this interaction was constructive.
“We are also using technology to give the person stopped an easy way to provide feedback about their experience and how they found the interaction with our officers. And we are seeing this is already making a difference.
“In the year to June 2021, the rate at which members of the black or Asian community were disproportionately impacted by stop-and-search had halved.
“Added to this, we are also about to hold our first Body Worn Video Scrutiny Panel where we will review how stops are carried out through the body worn video footage captured at the time.
“This panel involves IAG members and will increase the transparency about our use of stop and search and use of force and help inform and improve how these stops are carried out.
“We are also trialling an initiative where officers record the rationale for a stop on their body worn video as soon as is practicable to ensure the integrity of the stop and so it can be shown to the member of the public.
“Essex Police has also been rated as ‘good’ at treating the public with fairness and respect by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the independent body which regularly assesses forces.”
On the use of force, Chief Constable Prophet stated that officers are trained to use the minimum level of force required to resolve an incident “quickly, efficiently and safely”.
It is also worth noting that all officers who attend an incident where use of force is employed must fill in a Use of Force form, meaning there may be multiple reports of use of force for a single incident.
In 2020/2021 for example, there were 19,685 forms submitted relating to 8,135 distinct incidents. The definition of use of force also includes instances where equipment is drawn but not used.
The Constable said: “Keeping communities across Essex safe means our officers often have to intervene in challenging situations and, on occasion, have to employ a level of force to protect the public or keep someone from harming themselves.
“We police by consent and our officers are trained to use the minimum level of force required to resolve an incident quickly, efficiently and safely.
“All our officers are accountable for ensuring that if force is used, it is lawful and only applied when absolutely necessary. The most common reason it is employed is to effect an arrest.
“In over half of all instances where a use of force technique has been applied in 2020, it was to prevent harm to people or property.”
He added: “We have rigorous oversight and scrutiny of use of force by officers via a Use of Force Board to ensure it is being used appropriately and proportionately and so we can continue to learn and improve.
“It is force policy that where an officer may be required to use force then their body worn video is turned on where practicable. This allows us to scrutinise each incident, to learn from them and ensure both the officers and public are protected.
“Essex Police has been rated as ‘good’ at treating the public with fairness and respect by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the independent body which regularly assesses forces.”