Stop the scandal

As part of Centre zine, we chose to highlight the Stop the Scandal Campaign. This grassroots campaign was created by Yorkshire’s Racial Justice Network and supported by Yorkshire Resists. They wrote the following piece for our new zine, which is on sale now. 50% of profits from sales of Centre zine, will be donated to the Racial Justice Network. Read on to find out more about Stop the Scandal.

The Stop The Scan campaign challenges a move initiated by West Yorkshire Police in 2019 to introduce mobile fingerprint scanning linked to immigration databases, using equipment funded by the Home Office.

These biometric devices are used with officers’ mobile phones, as they detain people in the street. This adds an extra, dangerous dimension to Stop and Search protocol, which according to the government’s own research, disproportionately targets Black and Brown people (with Black people 10 times more likely to be targeted by police¹).

The technology is used once police officers have deemed an offence to have been committed. This could be anything from loitering to dropping litter. If the officer doubts the given identity from the person detained, they may then use a scan of their fingerprints in order to carry out a person search on their identity. It’s crucial to emphasise that an officer uses their own discretion to determine how authentic your given identity is, a subjective judgement, which in the campaign’s view, has the potential to even further discriminate against trans people within Black and Brown communities.

Black painted text says 'Hands off our prints' with a stylised fingerprint placed behind some prison bars to the left

Scans like this have only previously been carried out at police stations following an arrest. But what future lies ahead, where one’s dignity is stripped down and reduced to the opinion of a police officer, and a frequently inconclusive fingerprint machine?

The officer may choose to check identity against records held on IABS (the immigration fingerprint database). Stop and Scan is part of an immigration system that a 2019 inquiry into the Windrush scandal showed, to hold not only “poor quality systems and data”, but a “failure to monitor the impact of compliant environment measures” (now known as hostile environment measures)². A flag on the database – which could exist for any type of activity – may prompt a call to Home Office enforcers, heightening the risk of entering indefinite detention, or being deported.

The question remains: why use a device which could only identify those with fingerprints either on the IABS or criminal database, IDENT1?

The Stop The Scan campaign was created by the Racial Justice Network and supported by Yorkshire Resists. We are a network of individuals and organisations working together to end racial injustice. Our campaign is about alerting you to the racist nature of the intrusive power that biometric technology extends to the police. These technologies are being introduced, but they lack any meaningful scrutiny of their impact on the communities that the police are supposed to protect.

After the pilot by West Yorkshire Police ended, no evaluation of its use and impact was done before the technology was rolled out nationally.

Aside from West Yorkshire Police, no other police force is publicly recording the ethnicity of the people they are stopping and scanning. The lack of transparency makes it difficult to ensure that the use of this technology does not target certain communities unfairly.

In response to what we know, and what we can only speculate, the Stop the Scan campaign is calling for:

  1. The dismantling of the Hostile Environment: the UK must be a safe place for all people to seek and live a decent life.
  2. The severance of all links between the Police and Immigration, including a firewall between the police and all Home Office databases.
  3. An end to Stop and Scan.

We are looking for support from people able to help raise awareness, to advise on the shifting legal rights landscape during the pandemic, for advisors who may help construct a legal challenge to the roll out, and for people who have been scanned and are willing to offer their experience as a case study.

To find out more, visit StopTheScan.co.uk and search the #StopTheScandal and #EndStopAndScan hashtags. To get involved in supporting the work, email [email protected].

Sources:

  1. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn03878/

2.https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubacc/1518/151806.htm#_idTextAnchor025

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