Stop and Search

Police Federation spokesperson: “The Police Federation of England and Wales welcomes the new method of recording all police encounters introduced by the Macpherson Report. The Police Federation had serious concerns that the methodology previously used to record was unreliable and often resulted in misleading, inaccurate and sometimes malicious observations being made which often insinuated police bias and disproportionality”.
 

The Federation supports the recording of stops for a number of reasons: 

• Stop and search is an essential tool in the fight against crime and disorder.
 
• It will legitimise the use of stops as a valuable policing tool
 
• The report indicates that officers are coming to terms with the requirements

• Officers should be responsible for their actions

• There is a widespread confusion over disproportionality within the Home Office, the service and commentators.

• The Research Development and Statistics Directorate at the Home Office are Investigating the use of multiple-factors to produce a more
accurate ‘geo-mapping’ of police stop/search activity.
 
• The Federation believes that there needs to be a move away from the negative implications surrounding disproportionality promoted by
critics, to the police service seeking a positive process of explanation
and engagement with the communities affected.

 

Background

 

From April last year following Section 61 of the Macpherson Report, the recording of stops became a requirement for all police encounters. A recent report (by The National Implementation for the Recording of Stops) suggests that this will improve police accountability to the public and will protect the officer from false allegations and misrepresentation from public encounters.

It is hoped by the Federation that the recording of stops will promote better two way communications between the police and the public. The National Implementation for the Recording of Stops - commissioned by the Stop and Search Action Team undertook valuable research into police attitudes, training, leadership, data capture, community engagement, accountability and engagement.

The report was an honest but blunt appraisal of how, many within the force, feel about ‘stop and search’. One of the big concerns was the slur officers felt on the reputation of the force being linked with institutional racism.

A common strand throughout was the issue of disproportionality and officers attitudes towards it. Quite evident was the lack of common understanding at all levels of the service and public, except that it is widely misunderstood and feared. The legitimacy of police officers fears over the tag of ‘institutional racism’ is corroborated by this attitude of misunderstanding and fear. Officers are using encounters as a legitimate policing tool - needed for community safety and protection from crime and anti social behaviour. It is one of the best examples of intelligence led policing and the easiest way of targeting persistent offenders and filtering crime hot spots.
 

PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (rev. 1994)

 

The new Codes of Practice for PACE (Code A – Section 5) introduce a new responsibility on supervisors to monitor and detect any “disproportionality” in the searches their officers conduct.

The term “disproportionality” is frequently used. This is unfortunate as it has negative connotations and is synonymous with mistrust.  The Home Office and Chief Officers readily admit they do not understand the term and yet are determined to judge police officers by it. We believe the term “proportionate” would be more appropriate and implies a considered and necessary use of stop and search powers. Furthermore, we believe additional research should be commissioned into the many complex issues surrounding analysis of stop and search, in particular street populations.

In the aftermath of the Macpherson Report and following recent changes to PACE we expected the service to provide additional and focussed training.