Black people in Bedfordshire three times as likely to be arrested as white people

Human rights campaigner says police should not be handed more powers

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 3:51 pm

Black people in Bedfordshire are three times more likely to be arrested than white people, new figures show.

Civil lobbying charity Liberty, which campaigns for justice and equality, accused the police of acting unjustly towards ethnic minorities and called on the Government to reduce police powers.

Home Office figures show 485 arrests of black people were made in Bedfordshire in 2020-21.

Civil lobbying charity Liberty said the figures "highlight the injustices that black communities face across the criminal justice system"

This equated to an estimated 16.3 arrests per 1,000 black people in the area, based on population figures from the 2011 census.

In contrast, there were just 5.7 arrests per 1,000 white people, meaning a black person was 2.9 times more likely to be arrested.

Arrest rates were up on 2019-20, before the coronavirus pandemic, when 15.6 arrests per 1,000 black people and 5.8 per 1,000 white people were made.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns manager at Liberty, said the figures "highlight the injustices that black communities face across the criminal justice system".

Ms Andrews said: "The police should not be handed more powers, and their existing ones must be rolled back."

But the Home Office says "more is being done in policing than ever before to ensure everyone is treated fairly and without prejudice".

A spokesperson added: "We now have the most diverse police force in history and have extensive safeguards in place to hold the police accountable."

Habib Kadiri, research and policy manager at StopWatch, an anti stop and search charity, said the racial disparity in arrests is "symptomatic of an attitude that excuses the disproportionate targeting of black people under the guise that they are more likely to be involved in violence and drug crime".

Mr Kadiri also raised concerns regarding racial disparity in stop and search rates.

"The persistent racial disparity in stop and searches demonstrates the degree to which the misuse of frontline policing powers is institutionalised," he added.

Separate Home Office figures show there were 52.6 stop and searches for every 1,000 black people across England and Wales in 2020-21.

This is compared to just 7.5 per 1,000 white people, meaning a black person is more than seven times more likely to be stopped.

In Bedfordshire, 11.9 stop and searches per 1,000 black people were carried out, compared to 3.6 per 1,000 white people.

Bedfordshire Police’s chief constable Garry Forsyth said: “All forces across the country are supporting the landmark police race action plan, which commits policing to becoming anti-racist.

“As the national lead for race, religion and belief, I have played a key part in shaping this plan and no one is more committed to this agenda and making the long-term improvements we need.

“A key part of the plan is to understand and explain any racial disparity across all areas of policing, such as in arrest figures, our use of force or stop and search.

“If we cannot explain it, then we have to remove it. I take our commitment to that incredibly seriously.

“Here in Bedfordshire, we have the lowest levels of disproportionality in stop and search of all UK police forces, the third most diverse workforce, and are among a handful of forces to implement certain actions identified in the Macpherson report following the death of Stephen Lawrence.

“So while we have a good record compared to other forces, there is still so much more to do and I completely accept that change has not gone far or fast enough in terms of building trust and confidence in policing among black communities.

“The race action plan is a watershed moment to change that.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Every knife taken off our streets is a potential life saved, with 16,000 dangerous weapons removed from the streets and almost 81,000 arrests made last year because of stop and search.

"No one should be stopped because of their race, but tragically data shows that young black men are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of knife crime."