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Forgotten voices: Policing, stop and search and the perspectives of Black children

Insights Report


Authors: Amber Evans, Strategy and Insight Manager | Patrick Olajide, Analyst | Isabella Ross, Junior Analyst | Jon Clements, Executive Director of Development

Thursday 1 December 2022

REPORT 3 (recommendations): Stop and search: a plan for change

Our latest research has found that only 36 per cent of Black children and teenagers trust the police compared with 75 per cent of young White people. The trust figure for Black people aged ten to 18 was the lowest of any ethnic group and was even lower among Black Caribbean children.

Less than a quarter of Black children and teenagers questioned for the poll said they trusted police to stop and search them fairly and fewer than one in five trusted officers to treat people from different backgrounds fairly. The survey also suggests young Black people are less likely to call the police if they are in danger than those who are White or Black adults.

This research is the second of three reports, funded by the Hadley Trust, and considers children’s experiences and views of policing and stop-and-search. The first study focused on adults. It found that despite support for the principle of stop-and-search, there were deep misgivings among Black adults about the way the powers were used and how they were treated by police, in general.

In focus groups, conducted alongside the latest survey, Black and mixed ethnicity children said they wanted to trust the police but felt unable to do so because of negative interactions they or people close to them had experienced or viewed online.

One young teenager said:

"There's almost like an arrogance in the police. And it's almost like, we're going to, we don't have to talk to you properly, we're going to talk at you, not to you. Sometimes it's almost like a wind up as well.”

Another child told researchers:

“People who live in the nice houses, they think the police are there to protect them. People who live in the ghetto are mostly thinking that the police are out to get them. They know that they're gonna get stopped."

Key findings of the survey of children and teenagers, aged ten to 18:

  • 73% of respondents said they trust the police, compared with 62% in the adult survey

  • 36% of young Black people trust the police; 75% for those who are White

  • Only 28% of Black Caribbean children and teenagers said they trust the police

  • Trust in the police was lower among older children and girls, with Black girls the lowest of all among those surveyed, at 33%

  • 58% of all children and teenagers who had been stopped and searched said they trust the police, compared with 74% of those who had not been stopped

  • Young people in the East Midlands and Greater London had the lowest levels of trust in the police

Crest Advisory Chief Executive Harvey Redgrave said:

“Our findings suggest that children and teenagers have conflicting views on the police and the trust they can place in them. The most alarming results from our survey are that levels of trust are much lower among young Black people, particularly those from Black Caribbean backgrounds.

“Contentious examples of racism and discrimination within policing, alongside the use of police powers, such as stop-and-search, were cited by children across the focus groups as reasons why their trust in the police had declined. These children now felt unsure as to whether they could truly trust the police".

Other key findings from the survey:

  • 40% of Black children and teenagers, and 25% from Black Caribbean backgrounds, said they felt safe around the police compared with 75% of those who are White

  • 66% of young Black people said they would call police if in danger compared with 87% of White children and teenagers

  • 64% of White children and teenagers said knowing police are stopping and searching people in their area made them feel safer - but only 36% of young Black people said it did

  • 25% of Black children and teenagers trust police to use stop-and-search fairly, compared with 51% of those who are White

One young teenager in a focus group said:

"I think that overall, stop and search is a good thing. Because at the moment there's a lot of knife crime, there's a lot of unnecessary death… but then at the same time, they get carried away with it, and then everyone they see is a potential gang member. And it's just not the case."

Another focus group participant described what happened during a stop-and-search:

"I was coming out of the shop. And the policeman said, ‘come out of the shop’ and then the police guy went all the way around and came back and stopped me and said when I came out of the shop, I put something in my pocket. Yeah. I came out of the shop. You took that as a reason to search. I felt so violated, I was thinking this ain't right. But if I do anything, they're gonna say I'm violent (...) Then what happened halfway through it, they were on the radio, and then they're like okay bye and just went.”

Redgrave said:

“Most children and teenagers said they would feel safer knowing police were stopping and searching people in their area, but this varied substantially by ethnicity. Most Black children said what they knew about stop-and-search had made them trust the police less.
“It is also clear that many children find the experience traumatic and further analysis is needed in this area to understand the long term effects of this.”

Read our final report here, drawing on the research among adults and children and contain detailed recommendations.


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