A new report on ethnic profiling in Spain was published yesterday in Madrid. Based largely a survey conducted by Metroscopia and analyzed by researchers from the Human Rights Institute of the University of Valencia and Ben Bradford from the Centre for Criminology, the report provides new evidence of the extent to which Spanish police are disproportionately targeting members of ethnic minorities for identity checks and other police stops.

The survey report comes on the heels of recent reports by the Spanish Human Rights Ombudsman, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophoboia and related intolderance, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, which have documented and condemned ongoing practices of ethnic profiling by Spanish police.

Although the Ministry of Interior issued a Circular in 2012 calling for an end to the practice, the reports by these oversight bodies, as well as from domestic and international human rights NGOs have demonstrated that ethnic profilifing has continued.

Identity checks have been the main area of concern: there were over 7,900,000 in 2012 alone, but before now there have been no publicly available data that presents the ethnic identity of people stopped by the police.

The survey aimed to investigate variation in the experience of police stops across the Spanish population, and was conducted in two parts. The first, with a sample size of 2,000, was a population representative telephone survey; the second, with a sample size of 800, was a convenience sample targeted at ethnic minority groups living in urban areas. The aim was to both generate national level estimates of variation in the experience of stop and search and to drill down into the opinions of minority groups not often represented in sample surveys.

The data suggest that immigrants and people from ethnic minorities were more likely to be have been stopped on foot in the past two years, with non-white people born outside Spain particularly badly affected. Some 16 per cent of ‘Caucasian’ people born in Spain reported having been stopped on foot in the past two years, compared with 21 per cent of ‘non-Caucasian’ people born in Spain and 45 per cent of ‘non-Caucasian’ people born outside Spain.

Differences in the experiences of people from majority versus minority groups could not be explained by other factors such as the age differences or employment patterns. Moreover, people from minority/immigrant groups were no more or less likely to be arrested/detained or subject to some other criminal justice response as a result of being stopped.

Intriguingly, non-immigrants and people from the ethnic majority were more likely to have been stopped while in a vehicle, although some of the differences between groups disappeared in multivariate analysis. This presumably reflects the fact that it is ID checks that are the primary 'driver' of disproportionality, and these are predominantly street/foot stops.

A key aim of the research was to investigate the effect of being stopped on public trust and police legitimacy. While perceptions of the fairness of police during stop encounters were generally similar across groups, people with North African background and Muslims tended to experience less procedural justice than others during stops.

People from all groups who had recently been stopped by police were on average less trusting of police, and the effect of procedural injustice during stop encounters had the same impact on overall trust among both minority and majority group members. As in so many other contexts, police stops may be a key factor creating division between police and minority groups. The latter react to being stopped in the same way as the majority, but are much more likely to experience this form of police contact.

The report (in Spanish) is available here.