Stop and Search: The sociodemographic disparity

Client: BBC Radio 5 Live
Date: 6 August 2013
Medium: Broadcast Radio


I will happily go on the record saying I have a deep disdain for the police. I once wrote that I thought the police weren’t discriminatory for the most part and subscribed to the notion that they truly did to protect and serve. I very quickly realised with age, maturity and the development of my social consciousness that this simply was not true and that my assimilatory positioning did not truly resonate for me. My disdain for the police derives from two things: firstly, I have deeply memorable personal experiences of being repeatedly stopped and search without a reasonable premise, of having my house raided in error by armed police as a boy and of seeing the repeated criminalisation of/lack of empathy afforded to my peers. Secondly, I have a more objective, sociological view of policing as being fundamentally oppressive and as having minimal if any effect in correcting the personal/social ills which produce crime in the first instance.

My disdain of the police exists to the extent that I was not at all easily persuaded when it was proposed that I appear on Victoria Derbyshire’s show on BBC Radio 5 Live in a conversation with police officers about their perspectives on crime enforcement.

The conversation was to be recorded in audio as we walked the streets of North London. The prerecorded audio would then be aired framed by an in-studio debate with Haringey police borough commander Victor Olisa.

‘I’m almost always an object of suspicion, simply by virtue of the fact that I’m young, I’m male, I’m black, and I’m in a hoodie’

Apart from being weary of being called upon only to talk about crime and such issues pertaining to council estates in my journalism, I also was skeptical of how genuinely constructive the exercise would be. In the end, I feel I was able to convincingly make my charges of institutional racism in the police force and shed some insight as to why the very nature of policing inhibits genuine relations with communities. Ultimately, however, I believe the conversation was very foundational and more gestural rather than genuinely producing any ground-breaking insights.