In our next staff thought piece by the team at Fight for Peace, our Safeguarding Lead, Sérgio Prata addresses the commonness of stop and searches among young people in our communities, and how we can help support them in understanding their rights and respond in the best way.
Our thought pieces are a series of articles written by Fight for Peace team members and young people, and are a way to share thoughts and perspectives on important issues impacting our communities.
“It’s essential that the police don’t abuse their powers. When they do the stop and search, in practice they should read the rights of the individual and there’s a framework they must go by.
It usually has to go on facts, evidence and investigation; and all of that needs to be explained to the young person. That doesn’t always happen, and young people need to be educated on that.
If you’re talking about a crime that has happened, there are certain powers the police have to stop any young person that fits the description. If they believe the information, or actually see you about to commit a crime then you can be stopped. This is a soft topic, as there are lots of innocent young people who have never been involved in crime and are being stopped.
Normally young people won’t trust the police and that has a big impact because some of those people are affected by crime, and they need the police to help them; it’s a catch 22.
There can be a general lack of faith in the system, and this could be a result of publicly reported level of racism and sexual crimes within the force which all comes to the public eye; and we see our young people affected by it.
I think the question is education, collaboration and respect. At the end of the day officers are doing their jobs and the more you’re cool about it, the better chances you have of getting out of the incident with no consequences.
But you need to know your rights, including what they can take away from you – like a jacket; they may have to go through a different procedure. For example, going to the police station if you have to be searched by somebody of the same gender. All these processes young people need to know about, so when they are in these situations they are aware of their rights.
I would advise young people to keep calm and collaborate. You’re not going to win if you become disrespectful or offensive, you guide their hands. So if you have your knowledge about your rights you can be confident in yourself and it will be okay.
As youth practitioners we can do more; in the past we’ve brought non uniformed officers into Fight for Peace and organised a football match with our staff, young people, and officers. Something simple like this can help them get involved in community events and build relationships directly with young people, especially in areas where young people are affected by crime and violence.
It’s about having officers act like a role model themselves, seeing the kids and understanding the environment they are in and trying to help find solutions. I think it’s the safest way to go, to come into the space with open arms and be willing to build those relationships with the community and parents.
I’d like for the good police officers to come forward when they see colleagues not complying with the law, and file complaints as they’re the ones that are training the whole force. And secondly, is of course them realising they cannot do it themselves and they need to work in partnership.
If young people have sufficient knowledge about their rights, and are allowed to exercise their rights without resistance, if they comply with the police officers in the most respectful manner, and the end result is a healthy and respectful human to human exchange between both parties, I believe everybody wins.
And if the police officers uphold their oath and act with the highest level of professionalism and standards, respect, and honour the integrity of young people then I believe they will conquer many minds and hearts of young people and the general public.”