Black and minority ethnic people in Northumbria are more than twice as likely to be the subject of a police stop and search, figures show.
Police chiefs have in recent days denied that stop and search powers are racist, and insisted that they are an essential tool in fighting violent crime.
Data released by Northumbria Police shows that 2,708 stop and searches were carried out between August 2017 and July this year, the most recent 12 months for which data is available.
The figures show that in the cases where the ethnicity of the suspect was recorded by officers, 12.3% were BME. Just 5.4% of the population in Northumbria identify as BME, according to 2017 population estimates.
No ethnicity data was recorded in 1% of cases.
Andy Cooke, chief constable of Merseyside Police, recently said that stop and search should not be seen as discriminatory, and that the reduction in its use across England and Wales had fuelled violent crime.
He said: “This is about criminality not race.
“It is about disruption and putting the fear back on criminals: that visible approach to stop-searching those individuals who our communities know are causing the most harm, damage or violence.
“Those people should regularly be getting stopped and searched on our streets.”
In nearly half of cases, suspects were searched on suspicion of drug possession. Suspicion of carrying offensive weapons, such as knives, accounted for 21% of searches. Just 32 searches were for firearms.
Mr Cooke, who is the National Police Chiefs Council’s lead on organised crime, said: “I think criminals feel safer carrying weapons to cause harm, or weapons to commit acquisitive offences.
“They feel far safer carrying them now because they know there are less police officers, and even if there are police officers there is less chance they will be stopped and searched for them.”
Across England and Wales, there were fewer than 270,000 stop and searches conducted by police over the last year. Use of the powers peaked in 2008 and 2009, when 1.5 million were carried out each year.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “When we do stop and search, if we stop a young black man we are equally likely to find something on the young black man as we are on the young white man - a knife or drugs or stolen property. There is no difference there in the likelihood of success.
“If you are a young black man you are about four times more likely to be stopped than a white person, and that does upset people. But what I would say is actually the result, the success rate, is exactly the same, which shows to me that we are in fact using the power intelligently, we are targeting the right people.”