27 October 2016

New stop and search training and guidance for police

Police officers across England and Wales will receive new training and guidance on the use of stop and search.

​The training and guidance will give officers confidence to use their powers legally, fairly, professionally and transparently and help them recognise the potential for unconscious bias.

For the first time, evidence-based standards for training and police practice on stop and search will be set nationally. They will focus on the law, how to decide when to stop and search and how officers handle encounters as part of their continuing professional development.

To create the training the College of Policing undertook the first ever randomised controlled trial on stop and search and involved more than 1,300 officers across six police forces.

The training and guidance will help officers to recognise and challenge unconscious bias in stop and search. Unconscious bias affects everybody's decision-making. It happens when we make quick decisions in ambiguous situations that, without us realising, disadvantage particular groups of people. Our biases are influenced by our background, culture and personal experiences.

The training and guidance will support officers to demonstrate clear, objective and reasonable grounds before conducting a search. They also help officers to account for their decisions clearly, and treat members of the public fairly and respectfully.

The national training requires constables and sergeants to complete an online training module and test and take part in a two-day practical classroom session. Sergeants are required to take part in a further one-day course on supervising and monitoring stop and search carried out by their officers.

The College of Policing – the professional body for the police – was commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2014 to develop the new national training and guidance.

The trial found that officers who were trained were less likely to support using racial or ethnic stereotypes. They also had greater knowledge of the law, were more likely to say they would act in line with the standards, but were no less likely to say they would intervene in situations. In total 83 per cent of trained officers rated the pilot training as 'good' or 'excellent'.

Police forces across England and Wales now have access to the new national training, and new national guidance (Authorised Professional Practice) is now publically available.

College of Policing Stop and Search lead, Garth Stinson, said: "Stop and search can be an important power used by police to help to disrupt criminals and prevent offences.

"This is the first time since stop and search powers were introduced in 1984 that officers have been set national standards to support them and ensure it is used consistently.

"We know that stop and search can be intrusive so our evidence-based approach means officers will be given support to use their powers fairly, legally, professionally and in a transparent way.  We want officers to feel confident in their use of stop and search to use it more effectively in tackling crime and increase trust in its use.

"The power was introduced into policing as a way for officers to stop and search someone suspected of carrying illegal drugs, weapons, stolen property or something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar."

The training was widely consulted on and took into account feedback from the public, police, government and civil liberty groups.

CEO at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath said: "Stop and search must be lawful, non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory and based on reasonable suspicion. This is why we commissioned the College of Policing to develop a comprehensive stop and search training programme to help ensure officers meet these obligations.

"We worked closely with the College to develop and design the training to help police officers understand the importance of applying the rules fairly when stopping members of the public.  Doing so is vital in building and maintaining trust between the police and the communities they serve, and increasing public confidence in the police."

You can view the Authorised Professional Practice on the use of stop and search.

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