30 July 2020

National police guidance on stop and search updated

Members of the public most affected by stop and search will be encouraged to sit on panels scrutinising its use and be given necessary training on reading legislation and data, the College of Policing said today. 

In updated guidance, the College suggests that police forces across England and Wales should map areas where stop and search is most frequently used and ask people in those communities to scrutinise police use of the power. The aim is to further strengthen the understanding around the use of the powers and increase public confidence.

The panels are independent of the police and if required, members should be fully supported with training on the law, complaints processes and data interpretation.

The guidance suggests that police forces should also be prepared to make adaptations to ensure representation, such as changing the time and location of meetings to make them easier to attend, and consider alternatives to formal meetings, if that will encourage greater attendance.

Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, CEO at the College of Policing, said: “Forces are dedicated to keeping the public safe, and stop and search powers can make a real difference in disrupting crime in the short term.

“Policing is rightly one of the most scrutinised areas of public service and we should welcome any opportunity for the public to better understand or ask questions about our work.

“By updating the stop and search guidance, we hope to improve the way the power is scrutinised and build stronger relationships between officers and the public.”

“We want local communities to be able to ask questions, share their experience and build mutual understanding so that the police are best able to keep people safe.”

In addition to growing community engagement, forces should give serious consideration to publicising details of where and when stop and search authorisations have been issued - across multiple channels, including social media - as well as providing the public with reassurance where needed.

Forces should also ensure that communities are aware that members of the public can accompany police officers on patrol and observe instances where ‘no suspicion’ searches have been authorised. Where this isn’t possible, or if a stop and search hasn’t taken place during patrol, panel members can be given access to body-worn footage to view a stop and search being carried out, providing this does not breach the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  

Greater transparency is also being applied to stop and search data, with forces providing scrutiny panel members with information relating to the gathering and processing of peoples’ data, as well as giving them access to stop and search records. Should panel members question the use of stop and search powers, forces should provide them with an explanation and, where necessary, guidance for data interpretation and, if practicable, additional information relating to stop and search, such as body-worn video footage, training materials, complaints and statistics.

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