Stop and search is an important tactic, but if it is not used effectively it can damage communities’ confidence with the police, a meeting heard.
Bedfordshire’s deputy chief constable, Trevor Rodenhurst, gave an update on stop and search that focused on diversity to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Delivery & Beating Crime Meeting last week (Thursday, November 25).
The DCC told the committee that stop and search data is only available quarterly, but the most recent data was now available.
He said: “Obviously, we know that stop and search is an emotive issue with our communities.
“It’s an important tactic for police when it’s used effectively, but if it’s not used effectively, then it can damage confidence [in the police]
“And disproportionality is at the heart of that,” he added.
The DCC told the meeting that the last time it looked at the figures, someone from a Black community was six times more likely to be stopped and searched than if they were white.
He added that if they were Asian they were four times more likely to be stopped.
“I think we explained to you the efforts the force was doing to continually have independent scrutiny of our stop and search, to train our officers, and look at what the data told us in terms of if there was any sort of concerning use of that,” he said.
“We now have quarter two’s data back, I’m pleased to report that those figures are going in the right direction.
“We actually stopped more people, just slightly but more people, if you are Black you are now 3.9 times more likely to be stopped and searched.
“Which clearly is a significant reduction in that disproportionality compared to last time. If you’re Asian it’s 2.2,” he said.
The DCC said that for those classified as a minority ethnic other, it was 1.5.
He added: “When you look at when we used to look at this data, it was mainly our guns and gangs teams [carrying out stop and search].
“Now it’s our community team, which again I think is a positive message because it shows the community teams out on the ground doing policing activities.”
Festus Akinbusoye, the police and crime commissioner asked: “How has the force has been able to achieve that?
“Are you providing more culturally aware training for officers around stop and search and the use of powers?”
The DCC replied: “It features in all of our training to our new recruits, we’ve trained every frontline officer in a bespoke training package which doesn’t just involve the force, it involves community, and the people involved in stop and search scrutiny.
“We now have our top ten searching officers each month, and if you’re in the top ten you meet the ACC who talks about the use of those powers.
“This doesn’t mean that’s a negative conversation, it’s just understanding what the officers have been deployed on, what they’re involved in, and can go into some of the issues that impact on communities,” he said.
The meeting was told by the chief constable that there is a caveat to the figures.
The DCC said: “I would just echo what the chief just said in terms of there’s only a difference of six over three months and it’s caused quite a big positive swing.
“So it could go the other way when you’re dealing with those small numbers,” he said.
The PCC said: “I still welcome the positive line of movement, and long may that continue.”
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter