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Met officers in schools to be checked to see if black children are being targeted

<span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Police officers in schools are to be monitored to see if they are disproportionately targeting black children. The initiative is part of new measures agreed in negotiations between the Metropolitan police and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Under the plans, the use of powers by so-called safer schools officers in London, such as arrests and stop and searches, will be examined to see if there is racial bias.

The measures are billed by the mayor as a way to tackle disproportionality in the use of police powers, which is more likely to affect black people, and boosting confidence in the London force.

It comes amid an expansion of officers in schools by the Met to more than 500, and mixed reactions from parents and teachers – with some pressing for more, and others concerned about criminalising the young.

Concerns about police in schools were heightened after the Child Q furore, when a teenage girl was left traumatised after being strip-searched by officers for drugs she did not have.

The Met’s commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said progress on his force’s troubled race record had been made, but added: “I know the Met has let people down – especially black Londoners.”

The new race action plan reveals that black people are seven times more likely to be stopped by police on suspicion of carrying weapons. That reveals a higher racial disproportionality than for general stop and search, in which black people are just over three times more likely to be stopped than white people. Eight out of 10 stops yield nothing.

Other measures include community panels reviewing footage from body cameras worn by officers in order to examine cases where force is used. Khan is asking the government for a change in the law to make community scrutiny mandatory.

Rowley, who took office in September, has promised to reform the Met and boost confidence, which collapsed under his predecessor, Dame Cressida Dick.

He said: “Baroness Casey’s interim report demonstrated that there is evidence of systemic bias in the Met. It is appalling that prejudices such as racism have impacted the public during police interactions. I am uncompromising in my determination to root out those that corrupt our integrity.

“Policing depends on public trust, and this applies most of all to police and black communities. Tragically, not only do these communities have some of the lowest levels of trust in the police, but they also suffer some of the highest levels of crime – especially the 12 times disproportionality of the murder of young black men … We will only succeed with trust and joint action between police and black communities.”

The home affairs committee of cross-party MPs has backed the presence of officers in schools amid concerns about youth knife crime.

Remi Joseph-Salisbury, from the University of Manchester, whose research focuses on claims of racism in education and policing, said: “It’s often argued that police officers can play a softer, kinder and more supportive, pastoral type role in schools. The experiences of young people suggest that this simply isn’t what goes on in schools with police officers.

“Given that institutional racism and sexism goes to the very heart of policing, what’s needed is not a few tweaks to the role of police in schools, but the absolute removal of police from schools and the redistribution of that funding to care and wellbeing-focused interventions, as determined by affected communities.

The mayor launched his race action plan in 2020. The update, released on Monday, finds black confidence is still 15% lower than for white people in London. Black people were also 20 percentage points less likely to feel the police use stop and search fairly than white Londoners.

Ethnic minority officers make up 16.6% of the Met’s ranks, while 40% of Londoners are from ethnic minorities – a proportion that is predicted to grow.

The new aspiration from the Met and mayor is for 21% of officers in the UK’s biggest force to be from an ethnic minority backgrounds by 2024 and 28% by 2030. From this year the target is that 50% of new recruits should be women, and 40% from ethnic minority communities.

Khan, said:It’s simply not right that black Londoners have less trust and confidence in our police service, and it’s something the new Met commissioner and I are determined to improve together.”

The plan does not mention of the 1999 Macpherson report, which found that the Met was plagued by “institutional racism”. Dick had denied that finding still applied and Rowley does not accept the description.