UK

Police using stop and search less, watchdog finds

Stop-and-search in progress

Police are using stop and search powers less, without compromising crime reduction, the government's equality watchdog has found.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also found that four of the five forces it studied had reduced targeting of minority groups.

A report by EHRC in 2010 showed black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.

The watchdog said a more proportional approach had proved to be effective.

"This report shows clear evidence that where forces use an approach based on evidence rather than hunches or generalisations, they have not only seen reductions in crimes rates in line with overall trends, but have also increased public confidence in the police," EHRC chief executive Mark Hammond said.

The five forces covered by the report were Dorset Police, Leicestershire Constabulary, Thames Valley Police, West Midlands Police and the Metropolitan Police.

'Necessary and useful'

The study was a follow-up to the Commission's 2010 Stop and Think report, which threatened police forces with legal action after it found black and Asian Britons were still being unfairly targeted for stop and searches. Asian people were two times more likely to be stop and searched than white people.

EHRC entered into a legal agreement with Leicestershire and Thames Valley, made an action plan and scrutinised both forces closely. The Met and Dorset implemented a national guidance plan and West Midlands put forward its own set of actions endorsed by the commission.

Figures showed West Midlands Police was the only one of the five forces studied that failed to see a drop in its disproportionate use of stop and search against black and Asian people. However, it did see the largest overall drop in the use of stop and search of 50% between 2010/11 and 2007/08.

The West Midlands force says the EHRC figures did not use the most recent data for its area of operations, and the picture has improved in the last two years.

Despite the positives to come out of the report, figures showed that black and Asian Britons were still more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in all five of the forces studied.

Mr Hammond said there "is no evidence to suggest that targeting black and Asian people disproportionately reduces crime."

"Stop and search is a necessary and useful power," he said.

"If it is used proportionally and intelligently the police can protect the public, reduce crime and disorder and improve relations with black and ethnic minority groups."

The results showed:

  • Thames Valley saw a 20% drop on searches from 5,916 to 4,758 between the first quarter of 2011 and second quarter of 2012. The number of black people searched compared to white people fell from 3.5 to one to 3.2 to one, while the number of Asian people searched compared to the number of white people fell from 2.5 to one to 1.9 to one.
  • Leicestershire saw a 60% drop on searches from 4,183 to 1,660 between the first quarter of 2011 and second quarter of 2012. The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people remained the same at 4.2 to one, however, it fell from a peak of 6.2 to one in the third quarter of 2011. The number of Asian people searched compared to the number of white people rose from 1.5 to one to 1.9 to one over the period.
  • Dorset, which collates its figures differently, had a 10% drop in searches from 7,814 to 7,017 from the year 2007/2008 to 2011/2012. The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people fell from five to one to 4.3 to one.
  • The Met Police saw the number of searches between the year 2009/10 to 2011/12 fall by 4%, from 489,706 and 468, 831. The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people, fell from 4.6 to one to four to one between 2009/10 and 2011/12, while the number of Asian people searched compared to the number of white people rose from 1.7 to one to 1.8 to one in the same period.

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