Officer 'confusion' over Police Scotland stop-and-search

Police searching youth Image copyright Getty Images

Some Police Scotland officers still believe they are under pressure to search members of the public to meet volume targets, the force has revealed.

It insists that officers have never been given a target to conduct a certain volume of searches.

But a survey found some "are confusing directed and targeted patrols with general pressure to conduct searches".

Last month, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) sought further evidence on the "perceived pressure".

In response, Police Scotland asked all 17,234 officers if they agreed with the statement: "It is clearer now that officers are not under pressure to conduct volume stop-and-searches."

Just 851 officers responded to the survey and only 557 responded to the specific question.

'First step'

Of that number, 159 (28.5%) stated they disagreed (83) or strongly disagreed (76) with this statement, according to a report presented to the SPA's audit and risk committee.

The report, presented by Supt Andy McKay, does not say how many officers agreed with the statement.

It stated: "It is acknowledged that the results of the survey provide a very limited degree of information and context on which to base any conclusions.

Image copyright Police Scotland

"They can be interpreted in a number of ways and do not definitively provide a clear outcome of perceptions."

Mr McKay said the survey was a "first step" in measuring changes in stop-and-search practice and policing culture.

"It is our intention to revisit this survey later this year and reassess the issue of perception," he said.

"Worthy of note is the need to better refine the survey to take account of the differences between 'pressure' and 'tasking'.

"This process may cause officers some confusion as all divisions continue to encourage officers to conduct targeted (right place, time, people) stop-and-search activity to support national and local priorities such as knife crime, and there is still a benefit in recording proactivity through the de-brief process."

'Further action required'

He added that in recent months, members of the NSSIDT (national stop and search improvement delivery team) had carried out workshop days, visited every division and spoken with operational officers.

He said they confirmed that some officers were confusing directed and targeted patrols with general pressure to conduct searches.

"It is acknowledged that supervisors must communicate the concept of tasking in such a way as to minimise this perception and that is something that the NSSIDT will proactively address in the near future," he said.

The report said there had been a 50% reduction in relation to the overall volume of stop-and-search, including seizure, and consensual searches fell by 82% between June and November 2015.

It added: "Whilst acknowledging that progress has been made over recent months to remove any perceived pressure, we acknowledge that there is still further action required.

"In order to address any remaining perception of pressure, the NSSIDT are in the process of analysing the survey results and are preparing a handling report ... to consider and to make further recommendations to ensure all officers are clear that there is no pressure on officers to carry out volume searches."

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