Police in stop and search vow

SUFFOLK police today vowed to adopt a series of recommendations aimed at reducing the likelihood of a person of ethnic minority being stopped and searched.

SUFFOLK police today vowed to adopt a series of recommendations aimed at reducing the likelihood of a person of ethnic minority being stopped and searched.

The force's comments came following the publication of a long-awaited report completed by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) prompted by concerns at the apparent disparity.

As revealed in yesterday's Evening Star, during the first period between April and June, black and other ethnic minorities (BME) were 3.7 times more likely to be stopped by police than white people.

While that figure represents a fall compared to the same period a year earlier, when BME were 5.3 times more likely to be stopped, police chiefs are determined to reduce the figure further.

Gary Kitching Assistant Chief Constable at Suffolk Police said that they recognised the issues facing the constabulary and that it is one forces across the country are dealing with.

He said: “The research has highlighted some key points. One of the learning points is that there are times when officers believe the 'stop' has gone well, but the person who has been stopped has viewed the experience very differently.

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“Addressing this interaction between the police officer and the member of the public is central to our action plan, which has been developed from ISCRE's recommendations.

“Work within the action plan includes improvements to training, communication, monitoring, supervision, the stop and search database and data monitoring.

“Key areas of work already in progress include community involvement in stop and search monitoring through the creation of reference groups, the production of a training DVD and a new briefing package for staff.

“This research is a firm commitment by Suffolk Constabulary to tackle this issue.

“Today, we pledge to take positive action to address the disparity and will continue to work with ISCRE and Suffolk's communities to take this forward.”

What do you think of the findings? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The 82-page report found concerns with the attitudes of some officers in relation to ethnic minorities.

It stated: “An officer was overheard saying 'Good! Let them all move because there are too many of them in Suffolk' in reaction to the news that a large number of immigrants were heading to Peterborough for work.

“Comments like this raise questions about how the constabulary educates its officers around race and ethnicity and invites recommendations for regular training around race and cultural awareness especially for the longer serving officers.”

Meanwhile, 46pc of the polled members of the public who were stopped said that the officer treated them acceptably, but 54pc said the officer was aggressive, impolite, rude or offensive.

The report also found that the most persistent and prolific offenders in Ipswich were not from BME backgrounds nor were the people who commit the most heinous crimes, yet the amount of focus on BME communities by the police seemed to suggest otherwise.

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In ISCRE's wide-ranging study, which will go before Suffolk Police Authority next week, a series of recommendations have been made, including:

Better communication between officers and ethnic minorities

More respect for ethnic minorities

Better supervision for officers who carry out stop and search

More effort by the constabulary to engage with ethnic minority communities

More training provided to officers around the issue of stop and search

SUFFOLK police's chief constable Simon Ash admitted commissioning the report into disproportionate stop and search figures would be an “uncomfortable experience”.

But he said it was vital the force took action to stop the spiraling disparity.

“I embarked upon this knowing it was going to be an uncomfortable experience,” said Mr Ash.

“Stop and search powers are very important to us, they are a key part of our police tool kit, but if we don't use these powers sensitively, we run the risk that certain communities will lose faith in us.

“Communities across the county are becoming more diverse and it's important that we are able to respond effectively and with their confidence.”

Jane Basham, director of the Ipswich and Suffolk for Racial Equality, which published the report, said: “This report is quite powerful and the police have accepted everything we felt should be there.

“It's important we remember how significant the disproportionality is. It's larger than the national average and it has been allowed to grow.

“It may take some time before the changes we suggest make an impact.”

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