Police stop and search powers are to be overhauled, home secretary Theresa May has announced, with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice revised to ‘make clear what constitutes “reasonable grounds for suspicion”.’
Last year, a report from Release and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) found that black people were more than six times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs than white people (DDN, September 2013, page 4). They were also more than twice as likely to be charged if drugs were found and more than five times more likely to face immediate jail if found guilty of possession.
Under the revised code, officers using their powers improperly will be subject to ‘formal performance or disciplinary proceedings’. While stop and search is ‘undoubtedly an important police power’, if misused it can be counter-productive and damaging to community relations, the home office stated.
National training for stop and search is to be reviewed, with assessments of officers’ fitness to use the powers introduced, while the government will also bring forward legislation to make public access to stop and search records a statutory requirement if forces fail to allow it voluntarily.
Nationally, only around 10 per cent of stop and searches result in an arrest, while HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found that nearly 30 per cent of the stop and search records they examined ‘did not contain reasonable grounds’ for a search. ‘Nobody wins when stop and search is misapplied,’ said Theresa May. ‘It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police.‘