Avon and Somerset Police sign up to Government Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme
Avon and Somerset Police have signed up to the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.
While stop and search is undoubtedly an important police power, when it is misused it can be counter-productive. It can be an enormous waste of police time and, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and public.
The voluntary scheme, which was announced by the Home Secretary in April, is designed to contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios. It will also provide the public with further information on the outcome of searches.
Over the coming months, Avon and Somerset Police are working to implement the scheme to:
- Increase transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search and whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome.
- Restrict the use of Section 60 "no suspicion" powers. Already used only when necessary, under this scheme, the chief officer must make the decision whether to authorise the use of such powers. In cases where the chief officer anticipates serious violence, that officer must reasonably believe that violence "will" rather than "may" take place, as it stands now.
- Give members of the public the opportunity to observe stop and search in practice.
- Introduce a community complaints trigger.
Today the Home Secretary announced that all 43 police forces in England and Wales have signed up to the scheme and 24 will implement the additional data recording and section 60 "no-suspicion" measures from today.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Nobody wins when stop and search is misused, it can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police.
"That is why I am delighted Avon and Somerset Police have committed to reforming their use of stop and search by volunteering for the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. It will increase transparency, give us a better understanding of how stop and search is actually being used and help local communities hold the police to account for their use of the powers."
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "When stop and search is not used properly it can leave people less assured about policing as well as damage wider community confidence, particularly among young people and black minority ethnic communities.
"I hope the launch of the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme will not only make stop and search more effective and transparent, but continue to assure local communities that powers are being used appropriately and fairly."
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, Nikki Watson, Avon and Somerset Local Policing Lead, said: "Stop and Search is an important power that we use to keep our communities safe and feeling safe.
"In Avon and Somerset we are committed to ensuring stop and search is used correctly, fairly and proportionately by our officers, and that the reason for its use is communicated properly to the person who is stopped.
"The scheme will help us to engage further with our communities to ensure that they understand why the power has been used in their area and that we understand if its use is causing concern."
From today, stop and search data will also be available on data.police.uk. The additional information which forces will capture as a result of the Scheme will be published on this website in due course.
The Home Office has also launched a consultation on revising the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code A. The consultation on the Code, which governs the police’s use of stop and search, will last eight weeks.
The scheme builds on work Avon and Somerset Constabulary is already doing to ensure that we use the power appropriately, proportionally and in a manner which is positive for our communities.
Members of the public can join officers on a ‘ride along’ in their area with the possibility of observing a stop and search in practice. For more information or to apply visit our website here: www.aspwebadmin.net/services/ride-along-scheme/ride-along-scheme-application-form/
If you have a concern about the way the police are using stop and search within your community please contact us using our community complaints trigger form here: www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/advice/neighbourhood-community/stop-search/community-trigger-application-stop-and-search/
Posted on Tuesday 26th August 2014