9 July 2013

HMIC Report on Stop and Search Out Today - StopWatch Response

StopWatch welcomes Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s (HMIC) national inspection of stop and search powers and calls for continued and greater scrutiny of those encounters.

Commissioned by the Home Secretary Theresa May, the inspection has confirmed the over-reliance of stop and search powers by the police. In addition, the report’s focus on leadership and standards has revealed that most police forces across the UK lack even the most basic level of supervision and training that would ensure officers use these powers professionally and fairly.

This inspection has confirmed our long-held position that police forces rely too much on using these powers without sufficient consideration as to whether they contribute to crime reduction or if they are being employed in high crime areas. Indeed, the report points out that stop and search powers have been extended even in the absence of a proven link to crime reduction and even though only 9% of the one million stops per year lead to an arrest. In this light, StopWatch continues to challenge the prevailing conventional wisdom amongst officers that stop and search is an effective tool in the fight against crime.

Police initiated stops have a history of causing damage between police and communities across the UK. Research has developed a consensus opinion that the lack of consent and respect felt by young people during those encounters undermines faith in policing, undermines policing by consent and even contributes to the development of public disorder. This report will be welcomed by communities most affected by the use of these powers and it re-asserts the need for continued scrutiny of stop and search powers.

The report does not, however, cover some of the other stop powers which are also causing untold damage. There is growing evidence that counter-terrorism powers, such as the wide ranging Schedule 7 powers at ports and airports, are contributing to some of the sharpest declines in faith in policing.  We would also like the HMIC to review the use of these powers in its on-going work.

To this end, we welcome the findings of the inspection report as the start of a more constructive conversation on the use of stop and search and about exploring alternatives. StopWatch welcomes the HMIC’s commitment to revisit forces’ use of stop and search powers within 18 months to assess progress to ensure that police forces use their powers more effectively, fairly and intelligently.