Thursday, June 18, 2009

Equal-opportunity discrimination

The latest abuse of anti-terrorism legislation from the UK: police are using "stop and search" powers to balance racial statistics:

White members of the public are being unlawfully detained by the police in order to give "racial balance" to stop-and-search statistics, a report by the Government's watchdog on terror laws has found.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said he knew of cases where suspects were stopped by officers even though there was no evidence or suspicion against them.

He warned that police were wasting money by carrying out "self-evidently unmerited searches" which were an invasion of civil liberties and "almost certainly unlawful".

The context for this is that police have historically used stop and search to target racial minorities. To combat this, the UK Parliament required them to collect statistics on the ethnicity of those they were targetting - made easier by also requiring them to provide a form stating the reason for the search to the victim. These stats made the police look bad, so the usual management response seems to have kicked in: juke them! And if that means stopping thousands of people unnecessarily and unlawfully, then so be it.

Meanwhile, less than 1% of searches conducted under anti-terrorism laws result in an arrest, and none of those has been for terrorism. The law isn't just a gross invasion of civil liberties - its a massive waste of time. It should be repealed.