Use of stop and search powers down almost 75% since 2014 reforms

Student police officers taking part in stop and search training Picture: IAN BURT

Student police officers taking part in stop and search training Picture: IAN BURT - Credit: Archant

Police use of stop and search powers fell almost 75% in the four years since reforms aimed at more intelligence-led operations and better arrest ratios.

Suffolk police used the powers on 1,585 occasions during the year ending September 30 – compared to 5,884 in the 12 months before the Best Use of Stop and Search (BUSS) scheme at the end of April 2014.

A report on use of powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act went before the accountability and performance panel of the police and crime commissioner, showing two thirds of searches (1,057) were carried out for drugs and that about one in nine (181) included the removal of clothing.

In July, August and September, people of black and minority ethnicity (BME) were 3.8 times as likely to be stopped and searched – compared to 4.3 during the same period of 2017 – although proportionality fluctuated between 3.5 and five times as likely over the last 12 months.

The ratio fell further when including the 221 people searched in Suffolk, but with addresses outside the county, between October 2017 and September 2018.

Assistant chief constable Rachel Kearton said: “We’ve seen a reduction in the quantity of stop and search, but the quality remains at a high level.”

She said Suffolk’s Independent Stop Search Scrutiny Panel examined body worn camera footage for the first time at its last meeting, which was also attended by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said Suffolk was held as a “national exemplar” of best use of stop and search, but that legitimate questions were still to be raised about the number resulting in no further action.

The average rate of searches resulting in no further action was 59% in the last year.

During the last six months, the number of stop and searches peaked at 199 in June, with numbers reducing monthly between June and September.

The peak was still less than half the average 400 monthly stop and searches carried out in the year BUSS was introduced.

ACC Kearton said the force had critical operation requirements at that time, and that all searches were based on reasonable grounds of suspicion. She said Suffolk’s ‘no further action’ rate was better than the national average, and one the constabulary was comfortable with.