25 October 2012

West Midland’s PCC candidates pledge to review stop and search

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All of West Midland’s Police & Crime Commissioners (PCC) have pledged to review stop-and-search and most pledge to bring back stop-and-account recording.

On Thursday 18th October 2012, our local partner BRAP hosted hustings in Birmingham for the West Midlands PCC elections. This was the first time that all the candidates had shared a platform together.

The event had an incredible buzz with a strong turnout with people from all over the West Midlands. The evening kicked off with a 60 second passionate statement from each candidate on why they should be elected and the rest of the evening saw members of the public putting candidates in the hot seat on issues that mattered most to them. This included anti-social behaviour, deaths in police custody, public trust (or lack thereof), politicisation of the police force, stop-and-search, the closure of police stations and cuts to police numbers.

The evening ended with a question of mine, on behalf of StopWatch, where we managed to get pledges from each candidate for a review of how stop-and-search powers are conducted by the West Midlands Constabulary and a commitment by all but one, Bill Etheridge, to bring back the recording of stops where people are questioned but not searched, known as a stop-and-account. Bill Etheridge did, however, commit to include stop-and-account within a full review of stop-and-search practice. The West Midlands Police stopped recording stop-and-account in early 2011 after it ceased to be a national requirement to do so. A small number of forces, however, such as the Metropolitan Police Service, have continued to record stop-and-accounts in response to huge public demand. As with stop-and-searches, a great deal of research has shown that these encounters have led to a breakdown in trust with the police, particularly amongst young people and people from black or minority ethnic groups.

The candidates were:

• Matt Bennett - Conservative
• Bob Jones - Labour
• Ayoub Khan – Liberal Democrat
• Bill Etheridge - UKIP
• Cath Hannon – Independent
• Mike Rumble - Independent
• Derek Webley - Independent

StopWatch, with its local partners, have been organising and attending a number of hustings around the country to raise awareness of the use of stop-and-search powers within the relevant police force area and to get firm pledges for reforms. This is in addition to meeting with candidates in the months leading up to the public vote on Thursday 15th November. Our next stops will take us to the hustings for Leicestershire and Suffolk.

PCCs are part of the coalition government’s radical reform of how policing is conducted across the 41 police force areas in England and Wales outside of London. Their responsibilities include setting the priorities of their police force area, deciding how much money is allocated to each of the various policing activities (e.g. anti-social behaviour, counterterrorism, neighbourhood watch, rehabilitation, etc) and they also hold the power to hire and fire chief constables. They will replace the role of the former Independent Police Authorities which come into effect a week after the vote on Thursday 22nd November.

More information on StopWatch’s campaigns during the PCC elections can be found here.