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Sue Mountstevens welcomes new stop and search pledges

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New pledges by Avon and Somerset Police to improve its use the power of stop and search have been welcomed by Sue Mountstevens.

Avon and Somerset Police has announced it's changing the way it approaches stop and search by having open and transparent conversations with communities across the Avon and Somerset area. In a recent stop and search summit it made several pledges to our communities which detailed how it will improve the way we use the power.

The Constabulary pledged to improve recording, be more transparent with figures and to explore using bodycams to record stop and searches. Avon and Somerset Police pedge to:

  • Take action – To reduce the number and increase the quality of every stop and search. Future stop and searches will only be carried out legally where there are reasonable grounds to do so
  • To involve the community in stop and search training
  • Use community feedback from stop and search forums and Independent Advisory Groups to learn lessons and educate officers
  • Review and refresh the best way to inform individuals of their rights when it comes to stop and search i.e. stop and search literature such as cards, Know Your Rights App etc
  • Explore the possibility of recording every stop and search on video, with a view to pilot in East Bristol
  • Ensure every stop and search is carried out in compliance with the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics
  • Engage with our communities around section 23 drug searches. Is it a priority in A&S?
  • To work with our communities to ensure our workforce reflects the communities that we represent. We will hold a recruitment round table with young people, schools, IAGs, the PCC and Acting Chief Constable John Long
  • Is the issue wider than stop and search? We also need to look at road traffic stops and strip searches to see if there is any disproportionality
  • We will invite you back in six months to review our progress
  • Coordinate actions into a strategy to ensure we keep improving stop and search as a priority

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens said: “Stop and search is an issue people often raise with me and I know what an emotive subject it is. It’s crucial that that stop and search is done properly to help build trust and confidence in the police and strengthen the bond between the police and community.

“The stop and search summit was a great opportunity to share experiences, feelings and ideas on stop and search and I’m pleased the police have now made some pledges to the local community to adopt some ideas which will improve stop and search. I’m sure it will be the first step on a path to a better, fairer and more informed use of stop and search. There will be a review in six months and I look forward to hearing about how the community feels it’s going.”

Acting Chief Constable John Long said: “Stop and Search is an important power that we use to keep our communities safe and feeling safe. At Avon and Somerset we are committed to ensuring the power 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.

“We held the summit so that we could have an open and transparent conversation with our communities about stop and search and understand their concerns. I have pledged to examine our use of stop and search and explore how we can improve it.

Stop and Search film

Earlier this year Avon and Somerset Police was approached by a Bristol filmmaker who said he wanted to produce a film on stop and search. Michael Jenkins said he had been stop and searched many times in the past and that he wanted to create a film, working with the police, to reflect the stop and search experiences within our communities.

Michael spent many months working with the police and has produced a training film for police officers.

Avon and Somerset lead for stop and search, Supt Mike Prior, said: “The film is about challenging people’s perception of stop and search and the reality of it; both are equally as important.

“It’s vital that we listen and hear the concerns that people have and that is what the film is all about. It’s meant to challenge people’s views and bring greater understanding to all of the complex issues that stop and search evokes.”

Michael Jenkins, of 8th Sense Media, said: “The process of making the film was insightful, I met a lot of black men that had the same experiences as me, and sometimes even worse. I also got stopped during the making of the film which further highlights the problem. The fact that being black means I am more likely to have an encounter with the police - positive or negative - is what is at the core of this issue.

“This film has helped to change my perception of the police allowing me to view them as people working with a given structure with all the pitfalls that come with that. It also showed me that individuals like Supt Mike Prior, Chief Insp Norman Pascal, the PCC and the Chief Officer Group are all working to make the police service more transparent and officers more accountable. 
This can only be a positive thing and a step in the right direction.”

You can watch the stop and search film here:

Posted on Tuesday 11th November 2014
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