This article examines the view, expressed authoritatively in the Macpherson report (1999), that racial disproportionality in police stop and search is attributable to officers selectively targeting minority groups. The research on which this article is based replicates Home Office research (Miller and MVA 2000) that profiled the population ‘available’ in public places to be stopped and searched. Using a combination of data sources, this article extends that research in two directions: first, by exploring the issue of visibility and how it has an impact upon decisions to stop and search; and, secondly, by investigating whether disproportionality might arise indirectly from the way in which police direct their efforts in relation to time, place and types of motor vehicle. Finally, we discuss the implications of this research for the concept of ‘institutional racism’.
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