Overhaul to cut stop and search use
A decline in the use of stop and search powers is expected from today as 35 police forces overhaul their use of the controversial practice.
The Home Office has launched a best use of stop and search scheme, which is part of a range of measures aimed at slashing the overall use of stop and search.
The voluntary scheme was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in April after a policing inspectorate found the measure could have been used illegally one in four times last year.
In addition, black and minority ethnic (BME) members of the public are up to six times more likely to be searched than white people.
The Home Secretary said: " No one should be stopped and searched on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
"These powers are vital in the fight against crime when used correctly. However, they must be applied fairly and only when needed - and in a way that builds community confidence rather than undermining it."
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that 27% of stop and searches did not contain reasonable grounds for suspicion, meaning more than 250,000 of the one million searches conducted last year could have been illegal.
The new scheme aims to increase transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search and whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome.
It also restricts the use of controversial Section 60 "no suspicion" powers and introduces a community complaints trigger - designed to ensure complaints are properly monitored.
The remaining eight forces - City of London, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester Police, Dorset, South Wales, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire - are implementing aspects of the scheme and have confirmed it will be fully operational in their force area in coming months.
College of Policing lead on stop and search Inspector Nick Glynn said: " Stop and search powers are necessary to help us tackle crime and keep people safe. It is clear that the service has not always got its use of these intrusive powers right, and this has left resentment in our communities.
"Under this scheme, outcomes will be recorded in more detail so we have a greater understanding of how the powers are being used.
"Searches which do not require reasonable grounds of suspicion will reduce, be subject to more effective oversight from senior officers and communities will have greater powers to question the police over their use of stop and search."
The Home Secretary commissioned HMIC to inspect every force in England and Wales to see how stop and search powers are used and last year launched a consultation into the method.
However, reforms to stop and search were reportedly disrupted earlier this year as reports emerged that Prime Minister David Cameron blocked plans to curb use of the powers to prevent a view being taken that the Conservatives were too soft on crime.
Announcing her changes in April, Mrs May stopped short of introducing fresh legislation but warned that she would change the law if the use of stop and search did not come down.
The Metropolitan Police, which launched the scheme today, said it was arresting more people as a result of the more targeted stop and search powers.
Commander Stephen Watson, MPS stop and search lead, said: " We have made significant improvements to stop and search over the last two years to not only reduce the total number of people we search, but also to ensure that our officers focus on those areas and types of crime that the public are most concerned about.
"As a result, we are arresting more people than ever before following the more targeted use of stop and search and routinely find people in possession of weapons and stolen items.
"We recognise the impact stop and search can have on individuals and communities.
"Our work with communities and monitoring groups is helping to ensure we are more transparent than ever in how stop and search helps to reduce crime and keep people safe, but we of course recognise there is much more to do to improve confidence across all communities in the use of the powers."