Fairer Police ‘Stop-and-Search’ Powers Proposed
In an attempt to make police stop-and-searches fair for everyone, and only used when absolutely necessary, Home Secretary Theresa May has proposed a revision of the current code of conduct.
A consultation recently highlighted that stop-and-searches as being too widely used, and unfairly targeting ethnic minorities, with a black person thought to be stopped by a police officer around six times more often than a white person. It was also found that only one in ten stops resulted in an arrest; more than a quarter of all stop-and-searches may have even been illegal, without following the proper guidelines – which are highlighted here.
“I want to make myself absolutely clear,” declared May in Commons, “if the numbers do not come down, if stop-and-search doesn’t become more targeted, if those stop-to-arrest ratios don’t improve considerably, the government will return with primary legislation to make these things happen.”
May pointed out that not only are misapplied stop-and-searches a waste of police time, but it is also unfair on those most often wrongly targeted for the searches, worsening public confidence in the police. She added that members of ethnic communities often feel as though they are stopped simply because of their colour, and if that really is the case, “it is absolutely disgraceful”.
“There is no single issue that poisons relationships between urban communities and the police more than stop-and-search,” Labour MP Diane Abbott explained to Commons.
Under the proposed plans, the College of Policing’s Chief Constable Alex Marshall will review training for all police forces regarding stop-and-search. Police officers will also have to sit tests to make sure they understand the regulations fully regarding stop-and-search and stop-and-arrest, and that they will have to account for their actions should there be community complaints. They will also be made to understand that misuse of stop-and-search powers could result in disciplinary action, including a ban on using them.
Some police forces have already reduced their numbers of unnecessary stop-and-searches, such at the Metropolitan, often referred to as simply “The Met”, which covers areas of London. Their stop-and-search rates have fallen by 20% and stop-and-questions (where a police officer can stop you at any time and ask what you are doing and why you are in the area) have dropped a huge 90%, both over the past two years. The arrest ratio in the city has also risen in that time, but complaints against the police have also fallen.