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Racial Justice Network statement on West Yorkshire Police on-the-spot fingerprint scanning

As a Racial Justice charity operating across Leeds City Region and West Yorkshire, we are deeply concerned by the recent rolling out of on-the-spot fingerprint scanning in our region.

The Racial Justice Network engages and works with communities who too often face discrimination in a range of areas, from employment, to housing, the education system, health services, and bank services. In no place is this more evident than in the criminal justice system.

As the Lammy Review has shown, racial disproportionality in the operations of the police mean that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (‘BAME’) communities are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched by the police, more likely to be the victims of police harassment, more likely to be tasered, and more likely to die at the hands of the police. Decades of evidence on racial disproportionality suggests that the introduction of fingerprint scanners will be most harmful to Black and Brown communities who are all too often criminalised in our society.

We believe that the introduction of this technology – without due consultation – runs counter to the rhetoric of the government’s response to the Lammy review. If the government and police forces are serious about tackling racial inequity, (as the commissioning of the Lammy Review might suggest), then they must listen to the voices of anti-racist groups like ours, and Just Yorkshire. We invite them to do so.

As well as the criminalisation of our communities, the people that we work with are increasingly feeling the impact of the government’s anti-immigration ‘hostile environment’ agenda. This racist agenda is impacting upon the health and wellbeing of our communities, and creating an atmosphere of division and intolerance.We see the introduction of fingerprint scanners, and plans to share data with the home office, as an intensification of this agenda.

We are incredibly disappointed at the lack of consideration given to how this technology will be used, and the impact it will have upon our society. Whether through the trope of the criminal or the immigrant, the potential impact upon Black and Brown communities is a cause for alarm. At a time where police service should be looking for better ways to engage with and support vulnerable groups who are living in fear including EU citizens, at a time of virulent racism and xenophobia, we would like to hear from the crime commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, on how West Yorkshire Police plan to take our concerns on board. We are also keen to see racial justice being given greater consideration in this and future decisions.