Police database on gangs ‘racist and illegal’

Police database on gangs ‘racist and illegal’ say campaigners who accuse the force of ‘stigmatising’ young black men

  • Amnesty International said police officers are amassing swathes of data
  • Often it’s about innocent teenagers that can destroy their life chances 
  • Police admit many of those whose details are recorded are only at risk of becoming involved in gang violence

A generation of young people are being criminalised by a racist and illegal police database, it was claimed yesterday.

Campaigners accused forces of ‘stigmatising’ young black men with no history of violence or criminal convictions, sometimes on the strength of their social media posts.

Amnesty International said officers are amassing swathes of data about often innocent teenagers that can destroy their life chances. 

Police admit many of those whose details are recorded are only at risk of becoming involved in gang violence. 

But the fact they are on the database can affect opportunities for housing, education, training and employment.

A generation of young people are being criminalised by a racist and illegal police database, it was claimed yesterday. File photo

The Information Commissioner confirmed it is considering whether the Metropolitan Police has breached data protection legislation. 

Similar databases used by other forces, including in Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham, may also breach the law.

Kate Allen, of Amnesty International, called on regulators to act. 

‘This police data sweeps up a much wider group of people than those involved in serious offending,’ she said. 

‘Police must be given the powers they need to do their job but they must do it in a way that does not discriminate against people because of the colour of their skin or how they express their identity.’

The Information Commissioner confirmed it is considering whether the Metropolitan Police has breached data protection legislation. File photo

The ‘gangs matrix’ was established in response to the riots of 2011. Since then, the Met has gathered information on those linked to gangs and ranked them in a traffic light system as to the risk they pose.

Figures from October 2017 showed the database held 3,806 entries, with 5 per cent in the red category and 64 per cent in the green. 

Controversially, the database is shared with some other public sector bodies, including schools, local authorities and even job centres. Amnesty International said that two years ago 78 per cent of those on the database were black.

Mrs Allen said: ‘The entire system is racially discriminatory, stigmatising young black men for the type of music they listen to or their social media behaviour.’

The Metropolitan Police defended the database, saying its aim is to ‘reduce gang-related violence and prevent young lives being lost. 

A spokesman said police sought to identify those not yet drawn into gang violence and ‘divert them away’.

 

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