Thames Valley Police stop and search 'discrimination' drop

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Thames Valley Police has met targets imposed to stop police officers disproportionately targeting black and Asian people in stop and searches.

In March 2011 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said ethnic minorities were being unfairly targeted.

The force - which covers Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire - entered an agreement to tackle the problem.

The EHRC has said it is now satisfied with the steps taken.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Bennett said: "This is an issue that the force has taken extremely seriously and we are pleased that the commission has agreed to end the legally-binding agreement slightly earlier than expected.

"The power to stop and search is a valuable tool in tackling criminality.

"However, Thames Valley Police recognises that its use must be carefully applied to ensure lawfulness and minimise disproportionality."

'Misused powers'

In May 2010, the EHRC carried out a review of stop and search powers across England and Wales over the past decade.

It showed black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, with Asian people twice as likely to be stopped as white people.

Thames Valley Police was among five forces it contacted.

The EHRC subsequently warned the force in November it could face enforcement action, after saying it had "misused stop and search powers directly or indirectly in an unlawful, discriminatory way contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976".

'Public confidence'

It said the force's officers had also discriminated against ethnic minorities, either directly or indirectly.

In January, Thames Valley Police issued new guidelines to its front-line staff as well as implementing a £270,000 re-training programme of 3,000 officers.

John Wadham, general counsel for EHRC, said: "We are greatly encouraged by the efforts of Thames Valley Police.

"The force's results show that the police can use intelligence to better target stops and searches, with no apparent adverse effect on crime levels.

"We hope their example will result in better policing and, in turn, increased public confidence in the service."

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