Last updated on July 21st, 2023 at 03:23 pmReading Time: 4 minutes
What on earth is he talking about? I hear you ask. WTF is Available Population and what does it have to do with me? Pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple, sit back, give me 5 minutes of your time and I will hope to explain it to you.
A couple of high profile incidents recently have vexed me beyond measure, not because they happened but because of the totally negative spin put on them, which is not helped (in my opinion) by certain academics who just love to tread the party line and possibly ignore realities.
Dry, numerical analysis of practices such as Stop and Search will always throw up an imbalance. For example, Many academics will try and convince you that being Black means that your are 6,7 or 8 times more likely to be Stopped and Searched than if you were White. These claims are predominantly based on the Ethnic Makeup of England and Wales, or sometimes individual cosmopolitan cities like London. Is that fair? It could be argued that it is, but as a former Practitioner, rather than Academic, I prefer to say that it is neither fair nor truly representative.
One eminent piece of writing that I urge you to read is The stop and search race myth by Alasdair Palmer which eloquently tells the back story to Theresa May’s infamous condemnation of Stop and Search. It is a shocking story if true (and I have no reason to doubt it) and shines a light on politicians, their sychophants and the shenanigans of Government.
Alasdair references Available Population in his piece both he and I would make the argument that it is a far more relevant comparison to a local problem than the population of England and Wales.
For example, if you are a Police Officer tasked with tackling, and reducing, a string of Street Robberies committed in the High Street between 3pm and 5pm by 2 or 3 ginger people, 15-17 years old and wearing kilts, why on earth would you Stop and Search a 75 year old Grandma wearing a Packamac (showing my age now)?
The majority of the population of England and Wales is NOT 15-17 ginger kids wearing kilts, so they would appear at face value to be discriminated against.
However, if you look at the High Street between 3pm and 5pm and take a note of the people hanging around, you might just find that 60-70% of them are ginger teenagers wearing kilts and not many 75 year old Grandmas in Packamacs.
THAT is the Available Population, those people who were Available to be stopped in that location at that time.
Is that not a more reasonable comparator?
The police, the Home Office research showed, did not target particular areas for stop and search because they wanted to stop and search people of a particular ethnic group. They chose those areas because that’s where the highest amount of street crime was reported – and stop and search’s primary purpose is to diminish street crimes such as mugging and robbery.https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-stop-and-search-race-myth
Home Office research that the then Home Secretary (Theresa May) seemingly chose to ignore in favour of her “Stop/Search is bad” speech and accompanying threat to legislate and ‘reform’ it.
Finally, on this topic, another article entitled Disproportionate and Discriminatory: Reviewing the Evidence on Police Stop and Search by Ben Bowling and Coretta Phillips helpfully includes this opinion:-
The advantage of this measure is that it recognises that some demographic groups distinguished on the basis of age, ethnic origin, gender, etc are more likely than others to spend their time at home, at work or are otherwise in private spacewhere they are ‘unavailable’ to be stopped by the police, while others, conversely,are more likely to be ‘available’ by virtue of their demographic characteristics andlifestyle. The Home O⁄ffice research study exploring this comparator concluded that resident populations give a poor indication of the populations available to be searched. Within ‘available populations’, white people tend to be stopped and searched at a higher rate, Asian people tend to be under-represented and black people are sometimes under- and sometimes over-represented.https://www.stop-watch.org/uploads/documents/modern_law_review.pdf
I’ll leave it here, but I’m convinced that Available Population is a much fairer comparison when it comes to analysising statistics such as Stop and Search etc.
Racial Profiling is another habit the Police are frequently, and unfairly, accused of doing. I refer to my previous comments above, if you were tasked with tackling a string of Street Robberies in the High Street by ginger teenagers wearing kilts, you could rightly be criticised for stopping any 75 year old Packamac wearing Grannies. They don’t fit the profile of the robbery suspects at all.
However, it becomes far more complex with the occupants of motor vehicles. My car is most certainly not a ‘Prestige’ brand. However, as standard from new, it came fitted with ‘Privacy Glass’ in all of the back windows. This would mean that if I was following my car (from behind obv) I would be completely unable to tell whether the occupants were kilt wearing ginger lads until the vehicle was stopped and the occupants asked to get out. It would be totally unfair to accuse me of targeting gingers under those circumastances.
In short, it would be impossible to racially profile the occupants of my car, or 100s of thousands of others similarly equipped, fom the rear, be it daylight or night time. From the front or side you have a good chance but definitely not from the rear if you were following me.
Maybe some folk should consider that before they make outspoken comments about officers trying to do their job.