Proposals for body-cam footage to be used for stop-and-search scrutiny

Body worn camera footage could be used to scrutinise future use of stop-and-search powers by police in Suffolk.

Proposals have been put forward by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) for up to four recordings to be scrutinised by its Stop and Search Reference Group (SSRG) each month.

The group met on Wednesday at the Suffolk Young Peoples Health Project (4YP), in Ipswich, to present proposed protocol for a wide-ranging agreement to broaden scrutiny of stop-and-search powers to include encounters recorded by officers on body worn cameras.

The reference group brings together members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic community to discuss the use of stop-and-search powers by Suffolk police.

In the last quarter of 2017/18, the Constabulary used stop-and-search powers on 382 occasions – with more than half (56%) resulting in no further action

People whose ethnicity was categorised as black were 16.32 times more likely to be stopped and searched than people of white ethnicity.

An officer has the power to stop and search an individual if they have reasonable grounds to suspect possession of illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or an item which could be used to commit a crime.

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Reasonable grounds are not required if police suspect serious violence could take place, or an individual is carrying an offensive weapon in a specific location or area – but that power requires authorisation by an assistant chief constable and can only be applied to a specific area for up to 48 hours.

Under new proposals, ISCRE will nominate two people to review footage of up to four randomly chosen stop-and-search encounters each month.

The group currently examines forms completed in relation to people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to ensure searches are carried out in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice.

Body worn camera footage analysis will be fed into the bimonthly meeting of the SSRG.

Superintendent Kim Warner told this week’s meeting that Suffolk Constabulary was keen to see body worn camera technology used for scrutiny of stop-and search powers.

The ISCRE draft protocol will aim to ensure there is no difference between what is stated in written stop-and-search forms – regarding grounds for suspicion, courtesy and that police comply with the GO WISELY process – with what is on the video used by the police.

GO WISELY stands for:

•Grounds for the search

•Object the officer is searching for

•Warrant, particularly if the officer is in plain clothes

•Identification, proof that the officer is indeed a police officer

•Station to which the officer is attached to

•Entitlement, any citizen being searched by a police officer is entitled to copies of all paperwork

•Legislation, the legal power which gives the officer the right to stop and search

•YOU are being detained for the search or for the purpose of…essentially informing the citizen in no uncertain terms the purpose and nature of the search