Monday, September 18, 2006

Cannabis arrests and racism

A report by Scotland Yard, discussed in the Guardian on the 18th September 2006, reveals that black people are far more likely to be caught and charged with cannabis possession than white people. The report's findings have provoked renewed charges of racism in the Metropolitan police force since even the authors of the study can find no clear reason for the disproportionate numbers of black people charged with possession.


Anonymous said...

This letter responsing to the story, from one of the researchers on the report, casts an interesting light on the statistics. We should always be wary of jumping to conclusions

Drug arrests are not only about race

Tuesday September 19, 2006
The Guardian

Chief superintendent Ali Dizaei's mischaracterisation of the Metropolitan Police's drug arrest figures would be funny if it were not so destructive (Face up to the figures, September 18). As one of the "analysts" he denounces for finding excuses, I would correct him - we isolate the variables and clarify the truth as best the information allows. What people do with that information is another matter.

His interpretation - that since black drug arrests do not reflect the total black population it must be just racism - is simply not true. It ignores non-racist realities of socio-economic status, culture and street policing. He knows, or should, that volume crime is linked with youth and deprivation - and London's black community is demographically much younger and tends to be poorer.

Article continues
"Most drug users are white, why aren't most drug arrests?" is also a misrepresentation. Most recreational drug users are indeed white. But drug policing does not focus on individual recreational users, especially those - of any background - who use it quietly in private. "Recreational users v arrests" is a false comparison. Drug policing tends to focus on public use, eg crack houses, and on dealers, especially public street dealers. If you do a quick scan of the ethnic background of low-level retailers in London's open drug markets, you'll find black and ethnic minority young men "overrepresented" there, just like the arrests. Perhaps we should ask them to surrender their turf to white street dealers until the correct population proportion is reached. Battling drugs and racism is good; recruiting ignorance, myth and its inevitable spawn of grievance and ill-will, is not.
Alistair S Fletcher

Anonymous said...

Like has been said, its a mixed picture, however black young men have for years and years been stopped and searched FAR more than white youths. And to sugges they are more obvious in their drug consumption or dealing only goes part of the way to explain this.

Ali G said...

it also turns out that fletcher - the above letters autor - works for the met. hmmm.

daksya said...

If it's like the US, I don't think racism is the dominant factor behind the disparity.