Praise For 'Watchdog Panel' For Northants Stop & Search Powers

Stop and search powers need to be fundamentally reformed to ensure the public – especially young people and ethnic minority communities who are disproportionately affected by the policy – have trust in the police.

Speaking at the launch of Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission’s (OPCC) report into stop and search, PCC Adam Simmond praised Northamptonshire Police for leading the way on stop and search. 

The force has already adopted a policy whereby a community panel, consisting of senior police officers and members of the public, can review stop and searches carried out in the county. The panel has the power to withdraw stop and search powers from individual officers who continue to carry out unreasonable searches. 

Mr Simmonds believes that forces across England and Wales need to go further and ensure restorative justice is at the heart of stop and search. He argues that police officers who fail to carry out stop and searches on reasonable grounds should be expected to personally apologise to the individual they stopped. Any individual adversely affected by stop and search should also have the opportunity to accompany their local force on a routine patrol.

The Commissioner adds that the problem of incorrect stop and searches is particularly prevalent among young people and ethnic minorities, with two thirds of all people stopped and searched in Northamptonshire last year aged between 13 and 24. 

The OPCC’s report, which is based on interviewing over 1,000 people in Northamptonshire to understand their attitudes towards the police’s use of stop and search, reveals:

- 64% of people stopped and searched in Northamptonshire were aged between 13 and 24.

- Of the respondents who had been stopped and searched, half (49%) thought the police officer had no justification in stopping and searching them, 41% disagreed that the officer/s treated them with respect and 39% disagreed that the officer treated them fairly.

- 57% of survey respondents said that they did not receive a copy of the stop and search form and they were not offered one. 

- 68% of survey respondents said that the officer did not give them their details (name, ID number). 

In addition to publishing the findings of his report into stop search and the police response to that report with their dramatic changes, Mr Simmonds is also launching a further review into stop and search to ensure that practise matches up to policy; that proposed changes are implemented and an examination of public confidence and awareness in this crucial police power. 

Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen Lawrence, who was with him on the night of his murder, will be carrying out the review for the PCC.

Adam Simmonds, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire said:  “Stop and search is an important part of policing. It helps catch criminals and offers protection to the public. But it must be used responsibly if the public are to continue to have trust in the police. 

“I do believe the police have further to go so I am therefore commissioning an independent review across the county to be led by Mr Duwayne Brooks. Duwayne will use his unique insight and experience to assess the progress made by Northamptonshire Police in communities across our county.”

Duwayne Brooks added:  “When officers misuse their stop and search powers they are chipping away at the confidence the public have in the police. I look forward to working closely with Northamptonshire Police to ensure stop and search powers are used as a valuable tool, for both the public and the community.” 

In the past 12 months, the number of stop searches conducted by Northamptonshire Police officers has fallen by more than fifty per cent, to 3,414 in the 12 months ending 31 July 2015, compared to 7,374 in the same period the previous year.  For more detailed statistics, visit the stop and search pages at www.northants.police.uk .

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