2 May 2012

StopWatch PCC Manifesto

Kam Gill's avatar

The StopWatch manifesto for the upcoming PCC elections in November 2012.

StopWatch believes that fair and effective policing is vital for the safety of every member of the community. Stop and Search as it is currently practised is disproportionate, discriminatory and ineffective; it must be reformed.

The introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) represent a dramatic change to the nature of policing. Communities will play a direct role in the appointment of a Commissioner that will oversee their local police force. Successful candidates will have unprecedented discretion in the way policing and community safety resources are used.

The police authorities that currently hold the police to account will be abolished in November 2012 and replaced by elected PCCs in 41 police force areas across Greater London, England and Wales. In London the role of PCC for the Metropolitan Police will be carried out by the Mayor of London through the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which was created in January . The PCCs will hold office for four years and will be responsible for:

 

  • Appointing the Chief Constable and holding them to account for the running of their force

  • Producing a 5 year Police and Crime Plan setting out local policing priorities

  • Setting the annual policing precept component of local authority Council Tax, and the annual police force budget

  • Co-operating with the Criminal Justice System in their area

  • Working with partners and funding community safety activity to tackle crime and disorder by making grants to organisations that support their objectives.

In order to ensure some local accountability for the PCCs, a Police and Crime Panel (PCP) will be established in every police force area to scrutinise the work of the PCC (but not the performance of the force). The Panel will have powers to make reports and recommendations about any actions and decisions taken by the PCC and have a specific role in scrutinising the draft Police and Crime Plan, budgets, Chief Constable appointments, and the Annual Report.

These reforms present significant opportunities but also grave risks. It is vital to ensure that all members of our society enjoy access to the PCC structure and the protection to which they are entitled. To this end, StopWatch have produced this manifesto, which outlines six principles that we believe all police forces and PCCs must commit to in order that this essential function of policing can be realised.

These are six principles that form the basis of StopWatch’s campaign:

 

  1. Full recording and extension of measures to ensure police accountability and transparency in their use of stop-searches.

  2. Substantial reductions in the use of stop-searches and improvement to the effectiveness of stop and search

  3. Elimination of ethnic disproportionality.

  4. Investigating and advocating alternatives to stop-searches, and supporting the police in implementing them.

  5. Empowering impacted communities to have a voice on policing issues.

  6. Ensuring that Police and Crime Commissioners and Policing and Crime Boards represent the Community they Serve.

With over three million stop-searches taking place each year, stop-search represents a significant vehicle through which members of the community come into contact with the police. Historically stop-searches have been a source of conflict and anxiety and have been a motivating factor in the August 2011 disorders that spread across English cities.

Black and Minority ethnic people in the UK are subjected to vastly disproportionate levels of stop and search. National statistics show that under ordinary stop and search powers black people are stopped and searched by the police at seven times the rate of whites, while Asians are stopped and searched at more than twice the rate of whites across England and Wales. Disproportionality is much higher for exceptional stop and search powers such as section 60, where black people are 30 times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts nationally. This is unacceptable and must be remedied.

The police can only operate with the consent of their community. This means they must be accountable to that community. Democratic policing should seek to limit intrusion into peoples’ lives to that which is absolutely necessary and should, as a matter of routine, justify and explain any such incursions. Stops and stop and searches must be fully recorded and policing practice monitored by the Community. Policing priorities and practices must be developed in meaningful consultation with the public.

Stop and search is ineffective – only 9% leads to an arrest and a much lower percentage to charge and conviction. This decreases to only 2% for some powers (namely, Section 60). This is unacceptable. Stop and search is not providing communities with the protection it needs and it is generating tension and distrust. Improving the quality and use of intelligence would inevitably improve arrest rates, reduce the burden of excessive stops on the community and, in consequence, make society safer.

Stop and search is frequently presented as the only solution to issues of crime prevention, and particularly youth and knife crime. This is untrue. Solutions like amnesties and community outreach exist and have often proved more effective in the past. It is time that these alternatives were explored and implemented.

The Police and Crime Commissioners and Policing and Crime Boards will have a huge influence on the local community’s experience of law and order. To ensure that they do not become dominated by those with the loudest voices and the greatest social capital (which is likely to lead to the exclusion and disengagement of marginalised groups), it is essential that the boards are representative of the communities that they serve and embrace mechanisms to ensure that all voices within the Community are heard.

We are keen to work with anyone and everyone who will join us in fighting for them.