Skip to comments.Terror Searches 'To Be Scaled Back' (UK)
Posted on 01/27/2007 4:49:56 PM PST by blam
Terror searches 'to be scaled back'
Bt Ben Leapman and Tom Harper, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:44pm GMT 27/01/2007
Stop-and-search powers for police conducting counter-terrorist operations are to be reviewed after complaints from Muslims that they feel victimised.
The move could end the use of "profiling", in which young Asian men are targeted because they fit the expected profile of a terrorist.
Commander Richard Gargini of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) admitted that the review might lead to fewer people being searched under powers set out in the Terrorism Act, 2000.
He announced the plans in a speech to the Muslim Safety Forum at East London Mosque, in which he even accused British police forces of "bias" against Muslims.
At the same event in Whitechapel, Phil Woolas, the communities minister, accused the media of being skewed against Muslims.
Contrasting extensive coverage of Islamic extremism with the low prominence given to far-Right activities, he said: "I do think it is evidence of bias; and, more importantly, I understand why Muslim people- would think it is evidence of bias."
Mr Woolas cited a forthcoming court case involving an alleged bomb plot by British National Party supporters, which has received little coverage in the mainstream media but has been widely discussed on Muslim websites.
The minister said: "I don't think that sort of lack of coverage gives confidence that our society and media are balanced in their approach."
The move to reduce the number of counter-terrorist searches comes as the UK threat level remains at a historic high.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, said in November that her agency knew of 30 terror plots threatening the United Kingdom, and was keeping 1,600 individuals under surveillance, many linked to al-Qaeda.
The shift in stop-and-search tactics flies in the face of past assurances from ministers and chief constables, who have said that counter-terrorist- operations must target whichever ethnic or faith group is thought to pose the greatest threat.
Hazel Blears, then a Home Office minister, told MPs in 2005: "Some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by people in the Muslim community. There is no getting away from the fact."
Ian Johnston, the chief constable of the British Transport Police, said in the same year: "We should not waste time searching old white ladies."
However, Mr Gargini, in his first public comments since taking up the new Acpo post of national co-ordinator for community engagement, said last week: "There's some new thinking within the police service, that the use of stop-and-search has to be very, very carefully applied.
"It has to be led by intelligence. We need to move away from the concept of stopping on appearance, stopping on ethnicity. The support that we have at the moment could be eroded if we don't use that power properly.
"There has to be a balance between bringing communities with us, sharing power with them, and alienating them by using tactics which are unhelpful." He said that Miss Blears's stance was correct at the time, but now needed to be replaced by a "more intelligent" approach.
Police have long had powers to search people they suspect of carrying drugs, weapons or stolen goods. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 granted additional powers for police to designate areas in which anyone can be searched for articles connected to terrorism, even without "reasonable grounds" for suspicion.
In 2004/5, the most recent figures available, 32,000 stop-and-searches were carried out under Section 44. Asians were more than twice as likely to be searched as their white counterparts.
The Acpo review will be led by Andy Hayman, the Scotland Yard assistant commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism. Last month he said that stop-and-search operations cause "so much pain to the community we serve", while resulting in few arrests.
Mr Gargini, formerly head of Scotland Yard's international crime co-ordination unit, added: "I believe that there is a lack of understanding of Islam within our own staff."
He said the failure was displayed in "insensitive use of language" and "the ill-informed assumption that Islam's teachings are inherently extremist", which amounted to "a reality of bias". He added: "If anybody holds those views, we need to correct them."
In a separate move, Mr Gargini will oversee a fresh police attempt to recruit Muslim leaders to a security-vetted panel which will be consulted before counter-terrorist raids to minimise the backlash from the community.
United Kingdom 'To Roll Over And Die'
"the ill-informed assumption that Islam's teachings are inherently extremist"
It's called the Koran, and it is extremist.
... young Asian men are targeted because they fit the expected profile of a terrorist.
Oops, can't do that - that makes too much sense (/sarc)
So long, UK.