Greater Manchester Police has recently announced that its officers are to be given increased stop and search power in order to reduce youth violence in the Greater Manchester region. Indeed, following a series of fatal stabbings, over the past three weekends, including one in Tameside on the evening of February 4, the Police Assistant Chief Constable Mr Chaudhry has decided to identify a few “hotspots” in which security controls should be reinforced.
These regular stop and search checks will take place in a few specific areas of Greater Manchester, including Manchester city centre, central Stockport, Stretford and Old Trafford. Assistant Chief Constable Wasim Chaudhry said that the aim of the measures was to prevent violence and keep people safe. However, reinforcing police’s authority had raised questions from students at the University of Manchester about the role of the police as a protective institution, and its legitimacy to use power and violence.
Some students seem to agree and think that it would be efficient and useful. Emily, a second-year nursing student explains that her position as a woman often stops her from feeling safe around Manchester, especially at night. She explains that increased powers for officers would help her to feel protected. “It’s good to know that they are doing their job by making sure that all these areas stay safe”. She also explained that “as a woman I can’t afford not being safe in my own city”.
Yet, other students, especially when they consider themselves being part of a minority, do not agree with a more powerful and controlling police. Indeed, Jamal, a second-year engineering student argues that “it’s just going to increase facial discrimination and racism. We’re going to be stopped all the time just because we’re Black”.
Certainly, black people are over 9.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester’s mayor spoke out on the issue and expressed his concern for inhabitants’ safety in the area. He encourages everyone to “speak out” and let the police know if they witness anything suspicious. Burnham commented to the BBC that “If you see anything that doesn’t feel right with a youth person (…) please speak out”.