City police could change how they deal with cannabis possession if there are concerns that stop and search forces are damaging community relationships and delivering little illicit drugs.
The move is part of the London Mayor’s plans to alleviate the racial crisis that is engulfing the police. Other possible changes will be announced later Thursday on how the UK’s largest force deals with communities in London.
Research beginning this month will examine how effective the Met’s prosecution of people suspected of possessing cannabis is in combating violence in London.
Suspicion of drug possession is the most common reason officials give when using controversial stop and search powers, with blacks more likely to be stopped than whites.
But nothing is to be found at four out of five stops, and black teens think it’s an excuse to harass them.
The Guardian is aware that at least one other major force outside London is considering curbing officers’ ability to use suspicion of drug possession as a reason to stop and search.
The review follows a report from the Police Inspectorate criticizing the service for stops and searches. Almost half of all stopovers and searches in England and Wales are carried out by the Met.
Her Majesty’s Police Inspectorate’s report last month said the most common reason for stops was drug possession, and it was questioned whether this was an effective use of power or police time since so little was found.
The full-force report said black drug searches were also more likely to be conducted without intelligence, with officials recording weaker reasons and less likely to find anything.
Although cannabis possession is illegal, the HMIC questioned why so much police time and resources have been invested in a relatively minor offense compared to drug delivery, which incurs harsher sentences.
The reform decision at the Met will follow new academic research on the effects of drug cessation and addiction tactics on violent crime and the effects of cannabis enforcement on relationships with communities, particularly among the black communities in London. The aim is to improve the effectiveness and proportionality of police enforcement measures against cannabis.
The move represents a challenge to a sensitive area of policing and could change the way the Met has been running its street operations for years.
When investigating London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan of action, black Londoners said enforcement of cannabis possession was a key reason they felt they were targeted by police, resulting in racial profiles and allegedly excessive stopping and searching by Met officials. It is alleged that sometimes this is only because of an officer claiming he smells cannabis when the police do not tell it to.
The race schedule started in November after months of negotiations between the Met and the mayor.
It comes after mass protests by Black Lives Matter against police racism following the assassination of George Floyd in the United States last May. The Met became embroiled in a series of racial controversies, the main one involving stop and search.
New details on other initiatives will be revealed on Thursday, including community panels on better racial representation. You will not only look at policing in local areas, but also the actions of units operating across London. These include the Territorial Support Group, the Violent Crime Task Force, and the street police who are concerned about stopping black drivers. The public order order is not displayed.
The Met should set itself the goal of recruiting 30% of its new officers with black, Asian and ethnic backgrounds (BAME) by April 2021, and 40% from April 2022.
Khan said: “It is vital that our communities feel they are being heard properly and that there are concerns about the disproportionate use of police powers if we are to improve the confidence of all Londoners.”