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15 March 2010, 18:42
Dorset Police say they aren't deliberately targetting black and asian people with their stop and search powers.
A report out from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suggests police here are using the powers disproportionately on certain groups of people.
Deputy Chief Constable Chris Lee said: "We are very concerned by this report. Recent results – including the HMIC Report Card – consistently show Dorset as one of the top two forces in relation to the satisfaction of people who are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds."
Dorset Police, like all forces throughout England and Wales, makes use of legal powers to reduce and detect crime, but equally adheres to strict standards of fairness and respect while carrying out its duties.
The force claims the EHRC report relies on year-old statistics from 2007-2008, as well as data from the 2001 census – which is almost ten years old.
They say the statistics also fail to include visitor numbers. Dorset attracts 14 million visitor days a year – so it is likely that street populations will differ greatly from the census data.
DCC Lee continued: "Our targeting and monitoring has improved significantly since 2008 and focussed use of the power has resulted in a 16% reduction in the overall number of stop searches this year.
"We have also volunteered to be involved in a national development pilot, called Next Steps, that aims to increase understanding of the use of this power by police forces in more rural environments. This scheme is due to start on Thursday, 1 April.”
Between April and December 2009, officers used stop and search powers on 4735 people. This included 4172 white people and 228 black people.
Dorset police say it should also be noted that Dorset Police has only received two complaints regarding stop and search activity during 2009/10.
DCC Lee concluded: "This public concern, along with our intelligence and monitoring, shows that our use of stop and search powers reflect nothing other than the fact that we strive to address the priorities of our local communities.
"Dorset Police takes suggestions of discrimination extremely seriously and we again invite the Commission to visit the Force for a more informed discussion on these issues."