Friday, 2 May 2014

Police Reform: Details of Home Secretary changes to Stop and Search Police powers - a very welcome reform

On Wednesday in parliamanet the Home Secretary made clear that excessive stop and search has to cease: the reforms in LOondon are being rolled out across the country: this is a shortened version of what she had to say:

"I have long been concerned about the use of stop and search. While it is undoubtedly an important police power, when it is misused stop and search can be counter-productive. First, it can be an enormous waste of police time. Second, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public. In those circumstances it is an unacceptable affront to justice.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary were commissioned to inspect every force in England and Wales to see how stop and search powers are used.

The consultation generated more than 5,000 responses, and it was striking that those on the receiving end of stop and search had very different attitudes to those who are not. While 76 per cent of people aged between 55 and 74 thought stop and search powers are effective, only 38 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24 agreed. While 66 per cent of white people thought stop and search powers are effective, only 38 per cent of black people agreed.

The inspectorate reported that 27 per cent of the stop and search records they examined did not contain reasonable grounds to search people, even though many of these records had been endorsed by supervising officers. If the HMIC sample is accurate, that means more than a quarter of the one million or so stops carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act last year could have been illegal.

Official figures show that if you are black or from a minority ethnic background, you are up to six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than if you are white, and only about ten per cent of stops result in an arrest.

In London, thanks to the leadership of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, changes to stop and search show that it is possible to reduce the number of stops, improve the stop-to-arrest ratio and still cut crime. Since February 2012, the Metropolitan Police have reduced their overall use of stop and search by twenty per cent. They have reduced no-suspicion stop and search by ninety per cent. In the same period, stabbings have fallen by a third and shootings by forty per cent. Complaints against the police have gone down and the arrest ratio has improved.

HMIC‟s study into the use of stop and search revealed that more than half the police forces in the country are ignoring the requirement set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice A to make arrangements for public scrutiny of stop-and-search records. This is an important duty that should empower local communities to hold police forces to account, and so I have written to all chief constables and police and crime commissioners to tell them to adhere to the code. I have told them that if they do not do so, the Government will bring forward legislation to make this a statutory requirement.

Earlier today I commissioned Alex Marshall, the chief executive of the College of Policing, to review the national training of stop and search with a view to developing robust professional standards for officers on probation, existing officers, supervisors and police leaders. I want this to send the clearest possible message – if officers do not pass this assessment, if they do not understand the law or they do not show they know how to use stop and search powers appropriately, they will not be allowed to use them.

The proposals I have outlined today amount to a comprehensive package of reform. I believe that they should contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, better and more intelligence-led stop and search and improved stop-to-arrest ratios. But I want to make myself absolutely clear: if the numbers do not come down, if stop and search does not become more targeted, if those stop-to-arrest ratios do not improve considerably, the Government will return with primary legislation to make these things happen.

Because nobody wins when stop and search is misapplied. It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young, black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police."

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