Courtney Wallace has been searched by police so many times he has lost count. And yet he has never been arrested.

On one terrifying occasion Courtney and his mates were playing football when they were stopped and ordered to drop to their knees by armed police.

The youth worker says he has been stopped at least 16 times in recent years while walking home, going to the shop or just hanging around his neighborhood.

Courtney, 28, has shared details of his experiences as the M.E.N reveals new figures which show black people in Greater Manchester are now nearly four times more likely to be stopped and searched as white people – the biggest gap on record.

Home Office figures reveal that black people had a one in 346 chance of being stopped and searched in the region in 2016-17.

In comparison, white people had a one in 1,267 chance of being stopped and searched.

The figures show that racial disparity on stop and search in the region has actually worsened. This is despite pressure from the government to improve.

Professional boxer Courtney says he is not surprised by the new figures and says many of his black friends have also been stopped by police without being arrested.

Courtney Wallace is a youth worker at Moss Side’s Hideaway Project

“I could be going to the shop with my friends or by myself and police have just come over and asked ‘what are you doing here? There’s been a robbery’,” he says.

“I would say I’ve been searched about 16 times over the last four years.

“The first time I was a bit scared and didn’t know why I was being stopped. We would never have anything on us. After a certain point, it never bothered me.”

Courtney, who is also a youth worker at Moss Side’s Hideaway project, described one terrifying night when he and his friends were stopped by armed police.

Officers were scouring Alexandra Park following the rape of a woman. When they saw Courtney and his six mates leaving the park, armed officers ordered them to put their hands on their heads and drop to their knees.

Alexandra Park, Whalley Range (Image: Andy Lambert)

In truth, the friends had simply been in the park playing football and taking advantage of the light summer nights.

“I thought I was going to die. We were just playing football,” says Courtney.

“We were in the park playing football and it was late. There were police cars coming towards us as we were coming out of the park. Everyone had to get on their knees with their hands on their heads.”

Courtney grew up in Moss Side but recently moved away from the area. He says the stop and search powers were one of the reasons he left.

“I’m used to it to be honest,” he says. “I’ve seen it happen to other people in Moss Side too. I feel sorry for the young people who live here now.

“People see you’re from Moss Side and think you’re a gangster, but I’ve never been in trouble. I’m not a gangster – I’ve never been in trouble and I’ve never been arrested for anything.”

Courtney Wallace

Greater Manchester Police stopped and searched black people in the region 214 times last year. White people were searched 1,775 times over the same period.

That makes black people four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people – the biggest gap seen in the region in the last decade.

People of mixed heritage were three times as likely to be stopped and searched as white people last year. Asian people were twice as likely to be frisked.

In 2015-16 black people were closer to three times more likely to be stopped and search than white people, while the year before they were twice as likely.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have said the figures are “disappointing”and have called for a “comprehensive race strategy” to tackle the problem.

Ben Wilson, executive director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “These disappointing stop and search findings reflect many of the concerns we raised in our own race report, Healing a Divided Britain, and prompt us to call, yet again, for a comprehensive race strategy with stretching targets to reduce the racial inequality that is still so entrenched in our society.”

While the racial disparity in stop and search has worsened in Greater Manchester over the last few years, the total number of searches has actually gone down.

There were 2,829 stop and searches in 2016-17 compared to 4,971 in 2015-16.

But certain ethnicities are still more likely to be targeted by stop and search, despite pressure from the government to close that gap.

Back in 2014, police forces across the country agreed to reforms that were intended to eliminate discrimination in stop and search.

A report published for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary last year found GMP to be among four forces that had made unacceptably slow progress in complying with the new government rules.

The force has since carried out changes and is now obeying the regulations.

(Image: Joel Goodman)

Assistant Chief Constable Robert Potts said: “I know these figures may cause concern to many but I would like to assure everybody that we remain committed to striving towards a consistent level of service towards all members of our communities, regardless of ethnicity.

“In the past we have recognised that changes needed to be made and through our Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Strategy we continue to see these positive changes take place, all the while building stronger links between GMP and our diverse communities.

“As well as the use of body-worn cameras and the trialing of a much more detailed recording system, both of which allow us to stringently assess whether each stop is justified, we have recently taken part in a pilot with the College of Policing to help improve the use of this system nationally.

“This training pilot was intended to focus on practical legal decision making, unconscious bias, and procedural justice.

“We participated in this pilot, along with five other forces, because the fair and effective use of stop and search powers is critical to community confidence in GMP and therefore improved training for our officers and the profession more widely is something that we wholeheartedly support.

“The use of stop and search remains an important tool in our fight against crime and when used fairly, responsibly and proportionately, it has helped to keep the public safe and disrupt criminal activity.“We regularly review our use of this tactic and we remain dedicated to improving our use of it so that we can operate within our communities with their trust and consent.”

The gap in Greater Manchester is by no means the worst in the country. Nationally, black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.