Police officers will have to record every outcome of a stop and search, following a new Government code of conduct on the powers.
Every force in England and Wales has agreed to the new rules which will also limit the use of Section 60 stops – which allow officers to stop someone without grounds for suspicion in a situation where serious violence is anticipated.
The changes are being brought in after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that 27 per cent of stop and searches did not satisfy the requirement that there be “reasonable grounds for suspicion” – meaning more than 250,000 of the one million searches conducted last year could have been illegal.
Home Secretary Theresa May had said the technique was being misused so often that it was damaging relations between the public and police.
Under the new rules, police officers will need to request authorisation from an officer above the rank of chief superintendent – rather than an inspector – to deploy Section 60 powers. And forces will also allow public observers to watch stop and search in operation.
From next year, forces will start mapping where the practice is used so people can see if one area is targeted more than others, and the public will be entitled to know why this is the case.
Mrs 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.
“I am delighted that all 43 police forces have signed up to 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.”
Alex Marshall, Chief Executive of the College of Policing, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, said: “Stop and search powers are necessary to help us tackle crime and keep people safe but it is clear they are being misused too often. This can leave resentment in our communities and hinder our ability to prevent crime.”
Paul Ford, lead on stop and search for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The fact is, use of stop and search is more complicated than the headlines portray with street crime, possession of weapons and drugs still prevalent across England and Wales.
“The Home Office and Chief Officers have a responsibility to educate the public around police powers, particularly stop and search, and how they are used to keep the public protected.
“Additional training in this area for officers would be welcome, but forces need to be allocated more resources as most have cut training budgets to cope with the significant cuts to police budgets.”
Date posted: August 28, 2014