Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Overhaul of stop and search powers

Home Secretary, Theresa May, has rightly acted to address this issue that has long been a running sore in community relations. Evidence shows there are approximately 1.2 million stop and searches per year with asian people stopped and searched at twice the rate of white people and black people at seven times the rate. As one campaigner put it: "We don't need more police - we need smart police"

I was in the Commons when the boss said that it is "time to get stop and search right", as she launched a public consultation on the police powers in England and Wales.

About a million stops take place each year - but only 9% lead to an arrest. When the tactic was misused it wasted police time and undermined public confidence, Theresa May said, adding that no-one should be stopped "just on the basis of their skin colour".
Police gave backing to improvements that would not undermine public safety.
Announcing the six-week public consultation, Mrs May told MPs there were disparities in search-to-arrest ratios across England and Wales, with some being "far too low for comfort". She said she wanted the powers to be used fairly to build confidence in the police.
"I want to make sure that stop and search is used fairly and in everybody's interest. I want to see stop and search used only when it's needed. I want to see higher search-to-arrest ratios. I want to see better community engagement and I want to see more efficient recording practices across the country."
It takes on average 16 minutes to conduct a stop and search and process the details. That amounted to 312,000 hours each year and the equivalent of 145 full-time police officers, she said.
"At its best, stop and search is a vital power in the fight against crime. At its worst, it's a waste of police time and serves to undermine public confidence in the police," she said.
"We shouldn't rush to conclusions about those statistics, but everybody involved in policing has a duty to make sure that nobody is ever stopped just on the basis of their skin colour or ethnicity."

The decision was backed by the police: Steve Williams, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales which represents tens of thousands of officers, said: "Any decision to invoke stop-and-search powers must be justified and officers must be accountable for the decisions they make as part of their commitment to policing by consent. In our view this tool is essential - however if there are ways in which it can be further improved without a reduction in public safety, then we are keen to take part in the debate."