The use of Stop and Search powers by police can be an extremely powerful tactic in preventing crime and gathering important information relating to crimes.
However, used incorrectly, it can significantly damage relationships between the police force and people and communities.
In January 2014, the Police and Crime Commission launched a consultation in to the perceptions and views of communities around the use of Stop and Search powers, reaching over 1,100 people in the process.
A report from Northamptonshire Rights and Equalities Council (NREC) was also commissioned to get an even broader understanding of how Stop and Search is used in our county.
Following the findings of these reports, then Police and Crime Commissioner Simmonds wrote to the then Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police asking him to review and reform the use of Stop and Search by officers.
As a result, Northamptonshire Police announced a number of reforms to the use of powers, including:
- Proactively handing out Stop and Search forms when the tactic is used – more than legislation requires
- Trialling the use of body-worn cameras to identify areas of improvement
- Establishing a Reasonable Grounds Panel to assess all searches
- Commissioning Northamptonshire Rights and Equalities Council (NREC) to provide officer training
As a result of these measures, one year on from the consultations, the use of Stop and Search had nearly halved (down by 43%) due to prioritising quality of use, while Northamptonshire Police were also awarded the international Daniel Wagman Award, for commitment to managing social diversity.
In August 2015, the Police and Crime Commission appointed Stop and Search expert Duwayne Brooks to lead an independent review in to how progress and reform of the use of Stop and Search powers by Northamptonshire Police was being felt by residents and communities.
Alongside Superintendent Andy Cox, former PCC Adam Simmonds also announced plans to suspend officers from using the powers following cases of misuse, and giving those who have been stopped and searched unlawfully the opportunity to discuss their experiences and the effects with the officer involved, while receiving an apology.
Mr Brooks’ report – published in early 2016 – contains a number of recommendations to continue Northamptonshire’s proactive work around the use of Stop and Search, including increasing engagement between the Police and communities, enhancing communication throughout the Force in order to transmit strategy decisions to front line officers and the use of more effective training methods.