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6 June 2013, 11:15
Police forces are being fairer and more efficient in their use of controversial stop and search powers, the Government's equality watchdog has found.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that the five forces covered by its Stop and Think Again study reduced their use of stop and search powers without compromising crime reduction.
The watchdog's report also reveals that the forces concerned have seen reductions of up to 50% in overall use and a fall for some in the disproportionate use against ethnic minorities.
The study was a follow up to the Commission's report Stop and Think, published in 2010, which threatened police forces with legal action after it found black and Asian Britons were still being unfairly targeted for stop and searches.
The five forces covered by the report were Dorset Police, Leicestershire Constabulary, Thames Valley Police, West Midlands Police and the Metropolitan Police.
EHRC chief executive Mark Hammond said: "Stop and search is a necessary and useful power.
"If it is used proportionally and intelligently the police can protect the public, reduce crime and disorder and improve relations with black and ethnic minority groups.
"There is no evidence to suggest that targeting black and Asian people disproportionately reduces crime."
As a result of an 18-month action programme supervised by the Commission, all but one of the five forces - West Midlands Police - saw drops in their disproportionate use of stop and search against black and Asian people.
However, West Midlands Police did see the largest fall in overall use of the powers.
The watchdog said its intervention focused on an intelligence-based use of the powers, rather than relying on "hunches" or racial stereotypes.
Mr Hammond added: "This report shows clear evidence that where forces use an approach based on evidence rather than hunches or generalisations, they have not only seen reductions in crimes rates in line with overall trends, but have also increased public confidence in the police."
The 2010 Stop and Think report showed that at that time, nationally, black and Asian people were respectively six and two times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
Following publication of the 2010 report, the Commission entered into formal legal agreements with Leicestershire and Thames Valley to address this concern, while the Met and Dorset decided to put in place a national guidance programme.
West Midlands Police put forward its own set of actions, which the Commission endorsed.
Thames Valley Police saw a 20% drop in overall searches between the first quarter of 2011 and second quarter of 2012, from 5,916 to 4,758.
The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people, fell from 3.5 to one to 3.2 to one, while the number of Asian people searched compared to the number of white people fell from 2.5 to one to 1.9 to one.
In Leicester, over the same period, the overall number of searches plunged 60% from 4,183 to 1,660.
The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people remained the same at 4.2 to one, however, it fell from a peak of 6.2 to one in the third quarter of 2011.
The number of Asian people searched compared to the number of white people rose from 1.5 to one to 1.9 to one over the period.
Dorset, which collates its figures differently, saw a 10% drop in searches from the year 2007/2008 to the year 2011/2012, from 7,814 to 7,017.
The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people fell from five to one to 4.3 to one.
The Met Police saw the number of searches between the year 2009/10 to 2011/12 fall by 4%, from 489,706 and 468, 831. A total of 264, 586 searches were conducted in April to December 2012.
The number of black people searched compared to the number of white people, fell from 4.6 to one to four to one between 09/10 and 11/12, while the number of Asian people searched compared to the number of white people rose from 1.7 to one to 1.8 to one in the same period