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Officer Bias, Over-Patrolling and Ethnic Disparities in Stop and Search

Black and Asian people in the United Kingdom are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.

Following a panel of 36,000 searches by 1,100 police officers at a major English police force, we provide officer-specific measures of over-searching relative to two baselines: the ethnic composition of crime suspects officers interact with and the ethnic composition of the areas they patrol.

Our research showed that the vast majority of officers over-search ethnic minorities. In England, Black and Asian people make up 11% of the population, yet they account for 30% of all police searches, called “stop and search.”

However, the research also found that the over-searching by individual officers cannot account for all of the over-representation of ethnic minorities in stop and search: over-patrolling of minority areas is also a key factor. Decomposing the overall search bias, we find that the over-representation of Asian people in stop and search is primarily accounted for by over-patrolling, while the over-representation of Black people is a combination of officer and patrol effects, with the larger contribution coming from officer bias.

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