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Chiefs' concerns over 'chilling effect' of government stop and search regulation


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College of Policing wrote to Home Office raising issues with planned extension of reforms.

Theresa May introduced the best use of stop and search scheme

Theresa May introduced the best use of stop and search scheme

 

The College of Policing wrote to the Home Office to raise concerns about moves to introduce more rules on the use of stop and search.

Police Oracle can reveal that chief constables asked the organisation to point out a number of issues with government strategy – including a lack of analysis of its effectiveness.

The department wants to introduce a second stage of its “best use of stop and search scheme” with several new requirements for extra data collection by officers.

The scheme, introduced in 2014, aims to collect data on the use of stop and search, to allow the public to analyse its use, and reduce the use of section 60 searches.

But multiple complaints were noted at a chief constables’ council meeting about moves to extend it.

A paper said: “Given the changes in the scale and nature of violent crime, e.g. gun and knife crime are up by 20 per cent, recognition of stop and search as an important disruption tactic is needed.

“It was felt that there is already evidence to suggest that the existing scheme has had a chilling effect and has negatively impacted on officers’ willingness and confidence to use stop and search.”

Using data from 2017, the paper noted that the Met’s section 60 stops had dropped from 1,000 to 23.

Other worries noted included the cost of collecting data, and the fact that extra regulations had been imposed on forces on a power which is enabled by legislation.

It added there is “concern that the scheme was applying a blanket approach to roll out - to an issue that differs in scale and priority between forces (e.g. urban and rural) and does not recognise varying levels of capability or resource to support implementation”.

Chiefs stressed they support the general aims of the scheme – to promote understanding of the tactic inside policing and with the public.

After the late January meeting police chiefs, including NPCC chairman CC Sara Thornton, began publicly speaking out in favour of stop and search.

Use of section 60 stop and search has also started to increase in London.

A College of Policing spokesman confirmed it wrote to the Home Office raising the concerns and has received a response. He added: “The next steps are for the Home Office.”

The Home Office says the introduction of the scheme has helped the tactic become more effective with a 17 per cent arrest rate the highest on record.

A spokesman said: “Stop and search is an important police power, but when it is misused it wastes police time, it undermines public confidence and its unfair. Government reforms to stop and search are aimed at making the power more effective and transparent.”

He added that a review of the tactic is ongoing.

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