26 August 2014

StopWatch response to the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme

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Our response to the Government's new police code of conduct, announced today.

StopWatch welcomes the introduction of the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme and the fact that that all forces have committed to it. We have long advocated for improved recording and monitoring as a way of bringing more transparency and accountability to policing as well as fairness to those communities most affected by stop and search. 

StopWatch also welcomes the emphasis that has been placed on community involvement in the monitoring of stop and search, and the recognition that has been given to the damaging impact that stop and search often has. However, we are concerned by the lack of detail provided in the Scheme. The variations that are allowed between forces threaten to undermine the proposals, making them toothless. Communities must have a significant role to play, their engagement must be meaningful and their concerns taken seriously in order for the Scheme to be effective.

Although we consider the changes to Section 60 an improvement, we continue to call for its abolition. We believe that every stop and search must be proportionate and led by accurate, reliable and specific intelligence in order to be effective and credible. Rates of ethnic disproportionality have been shown to soar when officers have the widest discretion to search members of the public[1], and these exceptional powers have repeatedly been proven to be ineffective.

Whilst StopWatch is pleased by the proposals in the Scheme, we are concerned that they are unsupported by legislation, and unenforceable. The Scheme also does not address other significant concerns, including the searching of children, the conduct of strip-searches, Road Traffic Stops and counter terrorism powers.

We call, nonetheless, on each and every police force to use the scheme as an opportunity to improve the use of stop and search, and to work towards remedying the community disengagement which has all too often been its result.

 

[1] According to Home Office data for 2012/13, where reasonable suspicion is required, black people are four times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person. In Section 60 they are twenty three times more likely.