Downing Street is said to have blocked plans by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to curb stop-and-search powers amid fears that it could lead to claims that the Tories are soft on crime.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has clashed with David Cameron over her plans to curb stop-and-search powers used by the police, it has been reported.
The Home Secretary is understood to want to limit police use of the tactic and introduce tougher penalties for police who abuse their powers.
According to The Times, Mrs May wanted to announce sweeping curbs of the controversial tactic before Christmas but was blocked Number 10.
Downing Street is said to have been concerned that Mrs May’s measures would have left the Conservatives open to UK Independence Party claims that the party is soft on crime.
The standoff comes ahead of the European Parliament election in May, in which Ukip, lead by Nigel Farage, is expected to perform well in the polls.
Mrs May is understood to be concerned that the measures take up huge amounts of police time and that overuse of the powers is harming community relations.
Young black men are seven times more likely to be targeted than whites.
Mrs May launched a consultation on her proposals last July and told MPs she wanted to make sure stop-and-search was used fairly and only when it is needed.
Downing Street said that Mrs May’s “consultation has taken place but no final decision [has been] taken as yet”.
In September in a speech to the to the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales conference, Mrs May discussed her campaign to scale back the “waste of time” involved in the 1.2million searches carried out by the police on the street every year. She has said that the resulting arrest rate, which can be as little as 3 per cent in some areas, is “far too low for comfort”.
Some Conservatives feel that liberalising stop-and-search is the only way to expand Conservative appeal among black and ethnic minority voters.
In 2012, police officers conducted 1.2million stops and searches but only 9 per cent – 107,000 – ended in arrest.
Mrs May last year told MPs that conducting a search, then filling in the paperwork afterwards, takes an average of 16 minutes.
In 2012, 312,000 hours were consumed in this way – the equivalent of 145 full-time officers doing nothing else.
The number of hours spent on stops and searches that did not end in arrest was almost 300,000.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Nobody should ever be stopped just on the basis of their skin colour or ethnicity.
“The government supports the ability of police officers to stop and search suspects, but it must be applied fairly and in a way which builds community confidence.
“This is why we consulted over the summer on the powers of stop and search – and we received a strong response. We will respond to the consultation in due course.”
Theresa May clashes with David Cameron over stop-and-search