Brixton teens' TV message to the Bill

30th July 2004 at 01:00
Getting stopped and searched by police can be a regular nuisance if you are a black teenager growing up in south London.

So teenagers on Lambeth's youth council have created a hard-hitting video to let police understand how it feels.

All new police officers in the borough are now being made to watch the 30-minute programme, which urges them to question their motives before carrying out a search.

The youth council plans to take the video into schools next term and hold workshops to teach pupils their rights.

Abdi Yusuf, one of the teenagers who made the video, said he had been upset by his own experiences of being stopped by police in the street. "They were really aggressive towards me, coming into my own personal space," he said.

"I couldn't understand why three grown men wanted to bully a 14-year-old in the middle of the night."

Figures published by the Home Office this month showed that black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts.

The video explores whether racism is a reason why black teenagers are so likely to be singled out, contrasting the opinions of young people in the area with those of police officers.

One section, titled "Boys in their hoods", suggests that teenagers are frequently stopped simply because they wear hooded tops.

PC Wayne Whatley, an officer based in Lambeth, said witnesses to robberies would often say that they had seen a six foot tall person wearing a "hoody".

"If you step outside Brixton police station you could stop 30 or 40 people who fit that description," he said.

The video is highly critical about services for young people in the borough, even though much of the youth organisation's funding comes from Lambeth council. Andy Hamflett, youth council development manager, said it had initially been difficult to get some teenagers into the same room as police and that the officers had also appeared nervous about the project.

"The first session was a good start, but it was clear the police felt it was too oppositional, so our members changed their approach," he said.

The school workshops will advise pupils to remain calm if they are stopped by police and to remember their rights, which are summed up by the acronym GO WISE (see box).

Detective chief inspector Richard Quinn, Lambeth borough commander, said he thought the training would help pupils understand the police perspective.

"My advice to young people is the same I give to my officers," he said.

"Don't let the red mist come down.

"I'm glad they cover hoods in the video because my robbers, burglars and drug dealers all wear them, and then you find teenagers walking round on the hottest day of the year with their hoods up."


GO WISE:your rights when stopped by police

Grounds - police should give their grounds for stopping you

Objective - they should explain the aim of their search

Warrant - they should have a warrant allowing them to stop-and-search

ID - they should give you their ID number

Station - they should also provide the name of their station

Entitlement - you are entitled to a slip recording the incident

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