Bedfordshire Police should carry out more stop and searches “regardless” of any complaints that may come in, a councillor has said.
But the county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) said he doesn’t want to live in a police state where officers can stop anyone at any time.
A report presented to the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel yesterday (December 5) said third parties have argued that disproportionality in use of police powers “impacts detrimentally” on communities’ trust and confidence in the police.
Consequently, the report added, people from Black and Mixed ethnic backgrounds “are less likely” than White and Asian people to have confidence in their local police.
The panel heard that independent scrutiny of the use of stop and search by Bedfordshire Police is used to improve public confidence and trust in the way in which this is conducted.
Panel member councillor Patrick Hamill (Central Bedfordshire Council) said: “From my perspective, and a lot of my residents’ [Houghton Regis East] perspective, stop and search is really an important tool.
“We get the perception that because there’s rules laid down for stop and search it restricts the way the police can act in what they’re employed to do, because they take into account communities when in fact there should be taking into account the volume of crime that’s going on within those communities.
“There’s not many stop and searches going on on a daily basis in Beds Police [ten a day], we need to see more activity in that area.
“Good citizens will praise the police if they increase their stop and searches, regardless of the complaints that may come in.”
The PCC, Festus Akinbusoye, said: “I do not believe that we are seeing less stop and search. We’re seeing better stop and search, and more targeted stop and search.
“The last thing we want is the police stopping anyone anytime anywhere, because one of the most important things we have in this country, councillor Hamill, is the liberty to move freely without being interfered with by anyone, even the police.
“And I do not want to live in a police state where the police can stop anyone just because they feel like it.
“Having been stopped six times myself, I fully support the police doing their stop and searches, and stopping vehicles that they think are suspicious.
“The rules are very clearly established by legislation passed through Parliament, and then put in place by the College of Policing.
“If [officers] cover all those no one is going to criticise them for doing a stop and search, no one,” he said.
Councillor Hamill said: “But why does crime significantly keep going up, violent crime and murders, if stop and search is supposed to be a good tool?”
The PCC said: “Stop and search is a blunt tool, it cannot be the only solution to tackling crime and knife crime in our community.
“It is one of a series of tools that the police have to take dangerous weapons and dangerous people off our streets.
“I support what you’re saying in terms of stop and search, but it has to be done legitimately,” he said.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter