25 July 2013

The Home Office Stop and Search Consultation: Have Your Say!

The Home Secretary has announced a public consultation into stop and search. It’s really important that as many people, especially those with experiences of being stopped and searched, write in so that the government knows how you really feel about it, and we’re here to help you have your say!

The Home Secretary has announced a public consultation into stop and search that will run until 24th September. This means that the government wants you to tell them your views on police powers of stop and search and how you think they should be changed.

It’s really important that as many people, especially those with experiences of being stopped and searched, write in so that the government knows how you really feel about it, and we’re here to help you have your say!

StopWatch Youth is also offering sessions to help youth groups participate in the consultation. Please email natasha@runnymedetrust.org if you would like us to visit.

How do I take part?

You can complete the full questionnaire online by following this link

Or, you can simply send an email to the consultation with your views, as they will still count even if you don’t complete the full questionnaire. You can email the consultation at: Stopandsearch@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Most of the questions have multiple choice options asking how much you agree or disagree with a statement about stop and search powers. If you only have time to answer these then that’s ok! (And if you're really pushed for time you can take part in this short survey version)

However, it would be great if you also could fill in the boxes to share your own experiences of stop and search with the government and suggest ideas of what needs to change

Remember, the deadline is the 24th September and whether you fill in the questionnaire or send an email, tell the government about your own experiences and use your own words. But be polite – don’t give them any excuse not to listen!

 

Apart from telling the government how stop and search makes me feel, what else can I say?

Here are some suggestions for issues you can raise with the government about stop and search. Read further on for more information about them and why we think they’re important:

  • We don’t know that stop and search actually works

  • Stop and search has damaging effects

  • Making records gives us necessary information. It’s not time-wasting bureaucracy

  • People should only be stopped if there is genuine reasonable suspicion

  • Local people should have a real say

  • The complaints process must be easy to use and deliver real results

  • Police officers need strong leadership and proper training

 

We don’t know that stop and search actually works

You could point out to the government that there is no evidence to support its idea that stop and search is effective. We know this because:

  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) recently found that police forces themselves do not understand what ‘effective’ use of stop and search means. Read the result of their investigation into whether the police use stop and search effectively and fairly
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that when the number of stops was reduced by half crime still goes down: read their report
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 stops lead to an arrest

 

Stop and search has damaging effects

  •  Stop and search has costs as well as benefits: tell the government how stop and search makes you feel about the police
  • Lots of reports, such as Viewed With Suspicion, have pointed out the way the police use stop and search means that they are not trusted by some communities, so fighting crime is harder. The costs might outweigh the benefits [1]

 

Making records gives us necessary information. It’s not time-wasting bureaucracy

The government view the police making records about stop and search as ‘red tape’ and a waste of time. However, it’s really important that the police make comprehensive records about stop and search because:

  • We need this information to know if the police are using their powers of stop and search effectively and not targeting some groups of people unfairly
  • Sharing and monitoring records on stop and search (for example on a national website) allows for accountability and transparency which is vital if everyone is to have trust and confidence in the police

It’s important to remember that:

  • Making these records does not take as long as the government thinks (especially compared to the amount of time that is wasted in making unnecessary stops), and new technologies could be used to make it faster

And really, we need more recording not less:

  • We need the police to record more about each stop and be required to make records of more types of stop as well – see our briefing paper

 

People should only be stopped if there is genuine reasonable suspicion

Not all police powers of stop and search require the police to have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you of wrongdoing in order to stop you. We think all police stop powers should require reasonable suspicion because:

  • We know that stop and search powers where reasonable suspicion is not required are used the most unfairly, have the lowest arrest rate and do not have the effect of reducing serious violence. See our factsheet for more information.

We also think that officers need better guidance on what ‘reasonable’ suspicion’ actually means so that that all members of the public are protected by this safeguard:

  • ‘Reasonable suspicion’ is highly subjective, and influenced by officers’ own prejudices and assumptions based on the way people look and how they expect them to behave
  • HMIC recently found that in 27% of stops, there was not reasonable grounds for suspicion!

 

The complaints process must be easy to use and deliver real results

We think that it’s vital that the police take complaints seriously because:

  • As the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) points out, a proper complaints process where people feel they are taken seriously is important so that people have trust and confidence in the police.

We think the police can do this by:

  • Making it easy for people to complain
  • Giving people information on stop and search forms explaining how to complain
  • Taking steps such as those recently recommended by the IPCC

 

Local people should have a real say

It’s really important that the people who are affected by the way their police force works should get a say:

  •  But community engagement needs to be meaningful, not a tick box exercise led by the police
  •  Community groups should be independently funded and have access to all stop and search data (except names)
  •  If the police force doesn’t respond to the concerns raised by the community group then there should be consequences
  • Community groups should be able to make recommendations to improve the way their police force uses stop and search
  • The Police and Crime Commissioner should be required to be present in meetings between the police and community groups, and receive reports made by the community group
  •  Community groups should be representative of the local population so that everybody’s voice is heard

 

Police officers need strong leadership and proper training

In order for stop and search powers to be used effectively and fairly, police chiefs need to show leadership and officers receive regular training.

  • We know that leadership and standards are vital to improving policing. The EHRC recently found that strong leadership was key in changing the way officers used stop and search
  • Officers need to receive regular training about how to use stop and search. We’ve been hearing the term ‘institutional racism’ for over ten years now, but do officers really know what it means? If officers don’t receive regular training they will just repeat the mistakes made by others, as HMIC makes clear.
  • Police officers who have never experienced stop and search don’t know what it feels like, and training can address this

 

[1] Scarman inquiry looking at the Brixton Riots of 1981, the 1999 Macpherson report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and  research into the riots of 2011 have all highlighted the use of stop and search as a cause of poor police – community relations