Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Hope for revamped 'stop and search'

The Metropolitan Police is overhauling its 'stop and search' policy

A senior policeman charged with improving relations between Britain's biggest police force and black people has set out how he hopes a revamped "stop and search" regime will work.

Commander Tony Eastaugh, responsible for overseeing the Metropolitan Police's new approach to the controversial powers, insisted the "quality of the encounter" between suspects and officers was "absolutely key".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When we get that right and have the full explanation and members of the public who have been stopped are informed as to why they are stopped with proper grounds and proper rationale, then we have their mandate and support to be able to continue stop and search across the communities of London."

Stop and searches are set to plunge after Scotland Yard Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe described random searches as "a real challenge" for the force with figures showing more than 90% fail to lead to arrest.

Section 60 orders, which permit random stop and searches across wide areas, are expected to fall by half.

Announcing the change on Thursday, a spokesman said the aim was "to decrease the number of times senior officers grant authority for stop and searches". But he added: "It could be that there are just as many stops but they'll be more effective."

Officers hope the switch will boost the arrest rate from stop and searches from 6% to 20%.

Debate has raged for years among politicians, police and communities over the success of the searches. Critics say they alienate young people from ethnic minorities, while supporters say the tactic is a deterrent to rising youth violence and teenage murders.

Mr Eastaugh denied the latest revamp was "a knee-jerk reaction" to last August's riots which started in Tottenham, north London, and swept English cities over the next three days.

He said: "We have been constantly involved with communities, listening to them, asking them questions around stop and search, but we understand that through the surveys we have been doing... that the perception of our use of Section 60 is that it's random. It isn't random, but we also know that because the level of suspicion required for that use of power is lower, it's more difficult to give a proper explanation to members of the public."

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