West Yorkshire Police launch the Government’s best use of stop and search scheme (26 Aug 2014)

West Yorkshire Police has launched two key elements of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.

While stop and search is undoubtedly an important police power, when it is misused it can be counter-productive. It can be an enormous waste of police time and, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and public.

The voluntary scheme, which was announced by the Home Secretary in April, is designed to contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios. It will also provide the public with further information on the outcome of searches.

From today, police in Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale districts, which are leading the pilot for the force, will:

Increase transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search and whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome; and restrict the use of Section 60 "no suspicion" powers. Already used only when necessary, under this scheme, the chief officer must make the decision whether to authorise the use of such powers. In cases where the chief officer anticipates serious violence, that officer must reasonably believe that violence "will" rather than "may" take place, as it stands now.

By November, West Yorkshire Police will fully comply with the scheme by:

  • giving members of the public the opportunity to observe stop and search in practice; and
  • introducing a community complaints trigger.

Today the Home Secretary announced that all 43 police forces in England and Wales have signed up to the scheme and 24, including West Yorkshire Police, will implement the additional data recording and "no-suspicion" measures from today. All forces have committed to implement all aspects of the scheme by November.

Home Secretary Theresa 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. 

"That is why I am delighted West Yorkshire Police will from today reform their use of stop and search powers under the new 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.

Mark Burns Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: "Stop and Search needs to be intelligence led, used proportionately, sensitively and fairly and those stopped should clearly understand the reason for the search.

"I am delighted that West Yorkshire Police has signed up to the Home Office Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme.

"That involves recording the outcome of stops in more detail and giving members of the community the opportunity to apply to accompany officers on patrol and the sign up to this scheme comes after a personal conversation I had with Policing Minister Damian Green.

"Communities should share all stop and search concerns and views with me as I am their elected voice and will take all concerns seriously."

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle, of West Yorkshire Police, said: "Stop and search powers are really important to help us with the work we do to prevent and detect crime and make our communities safer and feel safer.

"We recognise that these powers need to be used in a targeted and effective way and with professionalism and proportionality. We have independent scrutiny panels which look at stop search activity on a regular basis to assess how officers have used these powers and whether the use was both necessary and appropriate.

"The scheme announced today will ensure that we continue to make improvements in the way we use our stop and search powers and we welcome the greater transparency and public accountability this will bring."

From today, stop and search data will also be available on data.police.uk. The additional information which forces will capture as a result of the Scheme will be published on this website in due course.

The Home Office has also launched a consultation on revising the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code A. The consultation on the Code, which governs the police's use of stop and search, will last eight weeks.

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 that they are being misused too often. This can leave resentment in our communities and hinder our ability to prevent crime.

"Every police force in England and Wales has today committed to the best use of stop and search scheme to improve the way we use these important powers. Under this scheme search outcomes will be recorded in more detail so we have a greater understanding of how the powers are being used. Searches which do not require reasonable grounds of suspicion will reduce and communities will have greater powers to question police over their use of stop and search.

"The College of Policing will play our part by reviewing and developing the evidence-base, training and guidance so that police officers at every level in the service are equipped with the right knowledge and skills to conduct effective stop and search. We have already built links with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to look at whether unconscious bias is affecting officers' use of stop and search.

"There are many areas of good practice where stop and search has reduced, the quality of encounter has gone up and arrest ratios increased. The College will be sharing that across the country so that we see the changes needed to ensure that the communities we serve have confidence in their police officers to use these important powers proportionately, effectively and fairly."

If you have been stopped and searched by West Yorkshire Police, Mark Burns-Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner, who is independent of the Police, would like to hear about your experience. You can tell us about your experience using the online form below or by calling 01924 294000.

 

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