Police Scotland explains that the almost 520,000 persons stopped and searched by officers in Scotland between April and December 2013 were not randomly selected, but that the incidents were “targeted and intelligence-led” (your report, 16 January).
Journalists and other members of the public may not know how much intelligence work is required to target an individual, but, although I don’t want to be a party pooper, I do, and if Police Scotland has the number of intelligence officers required to produce enough material to target nearly 58,000 individuals a months – in addition to its work against major criminals and criminal organisations, which will account (I hope) for at least 90 per cent of its activities – our intelligence gathering system must be the envy of the Western world.
I suspect that the meanings of the phrase, “targeted and intelligence-led”, are being somewhat stretched here.
Maybe “criminal profiling” would be a more accurate description for what triggered these stop and searches, but, if that is so, we are faced with a police criminal profile which appears to fit almost 10 per cent of our population over a nine-month period, unless the same suspects are being stopped over and over and over again.
Either would be worrying, and you fail your readers by not asking more searching questions.
Those of us who have felt perturbed by the large number of daily stop and searches in the Met area, because we know there is racial bias at work there, will be astonished at the revelation that our Scottish police carry out more than twice as many – almost 2,000 a day in Scotland compared with 850 in the area covered by the Met.
But the real proportion is even worse than that. Scotland’s population is 5.3 million, and the Met’s is 7.2 million. Maybe I watched The Bill too often, but I have always believed that the London Metropolitan area was more likely to harbour criminals than Largs, Lerwick, and Luss.
So presumably many of these stop and searches take place in our major towns and cities.
While not for a moment disputing the necessity to stop and search when there is genuine cause for suspicion, I would be glad to learn from the Scottish government why we by far outdo London in this regard.