PSNI 'lacks legitimacy' among black people after twice as likely to be stopped and searched

A Zimbabwean man who has lived in Northern Ireland for 30 years has said black people here feel 'over-policed' and that they do not trust the PSNI.

Tura Artura told UTV he has been stopped and searched by police here over 10 times.

"Openly in the streets, they searched me. They said, What's in your back? I took the stuff that was in my bag out and people could stare at me. I felt like I'd done something wrong. I felt scared. I felt really vulnerable," said Tura.

"It's soul destroying when the police stop you and they search you and you know you've done nothing wrong"

Tura believes he was picked out because of his skin colour.

New statistics released by the PSNI have revealed those from black, asian and ethnic minority groups are almost twice as likely to be stopped and searched by police.

Figures reveal 21,190 people were stopped and searched here last year, between January and December 2022.

Of those searches, black, asian and ethnic minority groups accounted for 6% of stops (1,259 stops), despite making up 3.4% of the population.

Irish travellers were the most affected, with 353 stops, despite only making up 0.1% of the population.

Meanwhile children between the ages of 13 and 17 accounted for almost 11% of stop and searches.

Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association, told UTV: "The reasonable silver lining is that in England and Wales it's seven times more likely. So and I think this issue, if I'm honest, is something the PSNI hasn't really had to grasp in the past as Northern Ireland becomes more diverse.

"This is an issue that's going to come to the fore a lot more. And we just need to make sure that the police service of Northern Ireland is ahead of it."

Tura said the African community here has already lost trust in the police.

"The PSNI lacks legitimacy within the African community because they don't trust them... Black people are being over-policed in Northern Ireland," said Tura.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Director, said: “We note with regret the PSNI’s continued failure to record the community background of those subjected to stop and search, despite repeated calls by the Policing Board for it to do so.

“Every unnecessary stop and search can leave a negative impact on community relations, with thousands of people left feeling unfairly targetedIn the long run, that is bad news for police community relations.”

A spokesperson for the PSNI said:  "There is no doubt that stop and search is an extremely important power when used fairly and effectively. We recognise that the use of these powers is a sensitive issue for our communities and I can assure the public that we continually review our practices and training, and have processes in place to ensure that stop and search is used effectively and proportionately.

“The Police Service recognises the sensitivities and concerns in regard to the use of stop and search powers and the benefits of obtaining detailed data on their use.  The recording of the community background of those who are stopped and searched is an area which the Service is actively progressing in consultation with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Office, the Independent Reviewer of Justice and Security Powers and other relevant stakeholders.“The Police Service of Northern Ireland has both local and organisational governance groups to ensure police powers, including stop and search, are being used fairly and effectively. Regular updates are also provided in relation to stop and search to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, who hold us to account in terms of the use of these and other powers."

The PSNI is also developing a Race Action Plan, in line with other police forces across the UK.

But for people like Tura, much work is needed to repair race relations.

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