Boris Johnson has defended stop and search amid suggestions that it is disproportionately used against black people.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, Mr Johnson insisted that he understood the ‘strong and legitimate’ feelings of people in the UK over the ‘appalling’ death of George Floyd in the USA.
But following clashes at some Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the UK, he insisted it was essential to keep the streets safe anod‘back our police’. The PM also refused to condemn the response of President Donald Trump to the incident, which saw a white policeman kneel on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Instead he praised the US as a ‘bastion of peace and freedom’.
Mr Johnson sought to highlight his record as mayor of London, saying he was ‘very proud’ of initiatives which had been introduced to promote black, Asian and minority ethnic officers in the Metropolitan Police.
However he was challenged by acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who said black people were 47 times more likely than white people to be stopped by police using stop and search powers.
He said: ‘On too many occasions, stop and search seems to mean being black is enough to be suspected of being a criminal.’
Mr Johnson acknowledged the powers should be used ‘sensitively and in accordance with the law’ but said they were an important tool in combating violent crime.
He said: ‘What has been happening in London with knife crime has been completely unacceptable.
Boris Johnson defends use of stop and search
‘I do believe that stop and search, amongst many other things, can be a very important utensil in fighting knife crime. It does work. It worked for us when I was running London and it must work now. It is not the whole answer but it is part of the mix.’
Challenged by the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman to condemn Mr Trump’s ‘horrendous’ response to the death of Mr Floyd, Mr Johnson said what had happened to him had been ‘absolutely appalling’.
He added however: ‘He (Mr Trump) is president of the United States, which is our most important ally in the world today.
‘Whatever those on the left may say about it, the United States is a bastion of peace and freedom and has been for most of my lifetime.’