In 1999, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry heavily criticized ethnic disparities in stop and search (‘disproportionality’), triggering a national reform effort to make the tactic fairer and more effective. Analyses of searches under core powers using up to 12 years of annual data from 38 police force areas in England indicate that aggregate disparities showed no improvement following the reforms. However, this overall finding is heavily influenced by London and, to a lesser extent, Greater Manchester and West Midlands, which are out of step with most of the rest of the country. The average force showed reductions in disproportionality associated with the reforms, although did not see improvements in arrest rates of searches. Theoretical implications of the results are discussed.
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