American civil rights activist and founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rev. Jesse Jackson launched the group called StopWatch in Britain, a group that aims to put an end to the police abuse of powers to stop and search people, especially from the government reports he has that shows a disproportionate stopping and searching of ethnic minority population.
Interview by Deborah Thomas
StopWatch launch has brought a lot of awareness in London regarding your call to end Police Stop and search powers. Are you pleased with the feedback you have received so far?
So far we are disturbed about the stop and search reports. On the streets, black people are subjected to what one government report describes as an “excess” of 145,000 stop and searches in 2008. Black people constitute less than 3% of the population, yet made up 15% of the people stopped by the police. Government must act now by having at least 30% more ethnic minority in the police force. There must be more females recruited into the force and there must be cameras installed into the police cars to record and prevent the abuse of stop and search.
How different is the police stop and search policies in Britain compared to the United States of America?
They are similar but the difference is that there are more ethnic minorities in the police force compared to ethnic minority serving in the police in Britain. But profiling and discrimination doesn’t stop with Stop and Search. There are racial disparities in the criminal justice system: The UK Ministry of Justice reports that Black prisoners make up 15% of the prisoner population, but make up just 2.2% of the general population. There is Bank profiling, there is Healthcare profiling and also Education profiling.
Is there any indication from your visit that change will happen?
Change will happen but requires all the citizens to work together with the Leaders to bring an end to all these disparities. You have the Olympics coming up in 2012; the world will be watching Britain. There should be equal opportunity, even playing field, public rules and transparency, clear goals and a fair referee.
Loved by millions of people, you are known as a Leader that campaigns for justice, equality and peace globally, how optimistic are you that StopWatch will make bring about change or end government policies that lead to racial profiling in Britain?
Britain a great democracy must have a level playing field for its entire people. Not to do so is a moral disgrace. Policing and Government should be for the people and with the people. Not against the people and that is my message for Britain and the Leaders.