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Police are 37 times more likely to stop and search a black person than a white person, according to research. The report added that Asian people were 10 times more likely to be stopped.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigated how police use "section 60" powers where officers do not need to have suspicions that a person is involved in a crime to stop and search them.

The research shows that some police forces were using section 60 of the Public Order Act to search black people in disproportionately greater numbers than white people.

Three quarters of all section 60 stops were carried out by the Metropolitan Police - a total of 258,000 over a three-year period. However, the number fell from 114,234 in 2008-09 to 53,509 in 2010-11.

Outside London, the force using section 60 stops most was Merseyside with 40,940. Some forces barely use the power at all.

The EHRC found that from 2008-11, the Met stopped 68 out of every 1,000 black people in its area compared with just 1.2 per 1,000 in the rest of England. Metropolitan Police officers were 30 times more to stop and search a black person than an officer outside of London, said the report.

Across all forces, black people were 37.2 times more likely to be searched than whites in 2010-11 - although this falls to 9.3 if London is omitted.

The effectiveness of these searches, originally introduced to tackle illegal raves, was also questioned in the report. From 2008-09, just 2.8 percent of section 60 searches resulted in an arrest, falling to 2.4 percent from 2010-11.

Simon Woolley, a commissioner at the EHRC, told the Guardian: "Our research shows black youths are still being disproportionately targeted, and without a clear explanation as to why, many in the community will see this as racial profiling.

"We are encouraged at least that the Met seeks to review the practice with a clear objective that avoids the crude measure of racial profiling and focuses on intelligence-led policing."

Deputy Commissioner forthe Association of Chief Police OfficersCraig Mackey said: "This report is a welcome step in further understanding the impact that stop and search can have within our communities. Chief officers, through ACPO, have been working for some time with the EHRC as well as the National Policing Improvement Agency to ensure that stop and search is used proportionately and with the full support of the communities we serve.

"Chief officers support the use of stop and search as these powers are critical in our efforts to tackle knife, gun and gang crimes. It is important that there is a debate about the effectiveness of these police tactics as we seek to balance the impact of powers, like section 60, on our communities with the need to protect communities from serious crime.

"The police service is firmly committed to working, both locally and nationally, to ensure all sections of society have confidence in the police service and we look forward to working with EHRC to better understand the evidence shown in this report and how it can influence our decision making."