A REPORT has revealed that just 4% of Stop and Search encounters by Police in Tamworth lead to an arrest or caution.
This report means that 24 out of every 25 Stop and Search encounters in Tamworth resulted in nothing being found.
The independent group established by Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, to strengthen public scrutiny of policing has issued its findings on the way police use stop and search powers.
The Ethics, Transparency and Audit Panel (ETAP) was launched under the ‘New Dawn of Transparency’ agenda by Mr Ellis and aims for policing in Staffordshire to be the most open and transparent in the country.
The ten members of the public who sit on the ETAP meet regularly to monitor the work of police including how crime is recorded and how complaints from the public are dealt with.
The Commissioner asked the panel to carry out a comprehensive review of how ‘stop and search’ is used by police in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. Panel members scrutinised stop and search records to make sure the powers are being used appropriately, that individuals who are stopped are properly informed of their rights and that the reasons for using stop and search are clearly recorded.
The report has been published at http://www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk/eta/
The ETAP found low rates of arrest following stop and search encounters in some areas of Staffordshire and differences in the quality of stop and search reports across the force.
It recommended a mechanism be put in place for greater consistency in the way stop and search is recorded across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and that recording is centralised to reinforce that consistency. The Panel said officers should record stop and search encounters on their bodycams to improve transparency and safeguard police and members of the public from false allegations.
Safer Neighbourhood Panels – local versions of the ETAP which will begin to meet in February – will carry out more local scrutiny of stop and search, which the report welcomed.
Mr Ellis said: “Stop and search is an important police power but can seriously harm public confidence in the police when used wrongly.
“Because of this, it’s an obvious area for the ETAP to scrutinise to make sure stop and search is being used appropriately in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
“This report makes several important practical recommendations about how stop and search can be used better to improve public confidence and accountability. Transparency can be enhanced further through the regular use of bodycams by officers to provide a clear record of each encounter.
“Providing the ETAP with wide-ranging and rigorous powers to examine such crucial areas of policing means police accountability is stronger than ever before.
“I thought establishing ETAP would make a difference but it has been even more successful than I hoped it would be. Localising the ETAP through Safer Neighbourhood Panel will make this scrutiny even tougher as local people will hold those responsible for policing in their area to account on stop and search and give feedback to their community.”
The scrutiny was scheduled before the Home Secretary launched a new scheme to reform police use of stop and search powers last August, highlighting the importance of the issue to public confidence in policing nationally.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly said: “The use of stop and search is an important tactic for our officers dealing with local crime issues, but it’s also vital that our communities have confidence that we are using it in a fair and proportionate way.
“It is worth noting that Staffordshire Police receive a very small number of complaints about our use of stop and search, in the last three years we have received only 19 complaints.
“We welcome the report on this topic by the Ethics, Transparency and Audit Panel (ETAP) and can assure our communities that the findings of the report will be addressed.
“In addition to acting on the recommendations made by ETAP we are also working towards achieving greater transparency under the Home Office’s Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme, for example we will soon be implementing a scheme to give members of the public the opportunity to observe how we use stop and search to help us tackle crime and disorder.”
To find out more about being part of a Safer Neighbourhood Panel visit http://www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk/safer-neighbourhood-panels/