Constabulary publishes stop and search report
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A new report by the Constabulary into the use of stop and search powers in the county has been published as senior officers commit to more work to ensure fairness across communities.
The report was commissioned by the Constabulary and written by analysts within the Intelligence, Analysis and Research team using data from all recorded stop searches in 2019, which totalled 2377.
Among the key findings:
- Black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person when you take into account the size of the population for each ethnic group.
- The majority of all stop searches took place in the Barton and Tredworth and Gloucester city centre communities. In Barton and Tredworth, disproportionality was lower than the county as a whole, with Black and Mixed Ethnicity people twice as likely to be stopped and searched as a White person, based on the population of ethnic groups in that area.
- Over half of all stop searches (52%) followed a report of an incident.
- Suspicion of the possession of controlled drugs formed the basis of the majority of stop searches (69%) *The next most common reasons were in relation to possession of a weapon (11%) and stolen property (11%).
- 16% of stop searches led to an arrest, 28% resulted in a ‘find’.
- A higher proportion of people stopped and searched were aged between 19 to 30 years old and were male.
- Only two complaints were received by the Constabulary in relation to stop searches in 2019 and one of these related to officers from a neighbouring force.
The report also highlights that a person in Gloucestershire is consistently less likely to be subject to stop and search powers than a person in the rest of England and Wales, regardless of ethnicity.
It recommends further analysis in a number of areas to improve understanding of how stop and search is being used.
The Constabulary’s analysis comes at the same time as a national report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services (HMICFRS), which reviewed factors that may contribute to disproportionality such as drugs enforcement, culture and other societal issues.
In response to both its own analysis and the HMICFRS report, the Constabulary will be carrying out further research and taking the following action:
- Adding to its stop and search form to allow officers to record if a stop search relates to drugs supply or drugs possession.
- Adding to the stop and search form to make sure the force can identify all stop and search incidents where force has been used.
- Adding extra ethnicity categories to the stop and search form to ensure the ethnicity of more people who are stopped and searched is captured.
- Continuing work with the Community Legitimacy Panel made up of people from ethnically diverse communities in the county.
This will build on a number of measures already in place to ensure scrutiny of stop and search including:
- A specific Stop Search Community Scrutiny Panel, which was set up in 2016 and meet regularly. This is made up of 10-12 members of the public across Gloucestershire who independently review between 10 and 15 stop searches each meeting and rate each search as red, amber or green, providing feedback and learning to the Constabulary. The Constabulary now intends to introduce the viewing of bodyworn footage to assist their reviews.
- Minutes of the Stop Search Community Scrutiny Panel meetings are now being published on the Constabulary website to aid transparency.
- The use of bodyworn video by officers during all stop searches has been made force policy.
Assistant Chief Constable Rhiannon Kirk said: "Stop and search is a vital tool in combating crime - it's used most for drugs offences but it has also been important in the battle against knife crime.
"Our arrest and find rates may look low in terms of percentages but they are in line with other forces and it's important to remember that a stop and search where we don't find something can be as good a result as when we do find something. It means that person may be exonerated without the need for arrest.
"But it's vital people have confidence in us and don't feel unfairly targeted.
"These reports raise some important questions around disproportionality in the figures and if we are using stop and search as effectively as we can.
"We don't have all the answers yet but I strongly believe we are on the right path. I am determined to improve the tools we have at our disposal to get to the heart of the issue and continue the open conversations we've been having with our ethnically diverse communities that are so important to ensuring fairness and equality.
"The HMICFRS report raises valid points around the use of stop and search in drugs enforcement and the changes we are making to the stop and search form will help us understand if we are using the powers best to address our priorities.
"Many people may not realise that the majority of our stop searches took place after people reported incidents, and that is reassuring to an extent, although the HMICFRS has recommended greater use of intelligence to target serious offending and our own report acknowledges we need to improve data quality in intelligence reports to understand whether they have influenced a stop search.
"When it comes to training and learning I do believe we are progressing. Our Better Together team is making great strides in improving the diversity of our workforce and we have our stop search scrutiny panel that reviews stop searches and assess whether they were appropriate.
"Most significantly though, the Community Legitimacy Panel set up last year has been a great success so far, with high attendance and honest and detailed feedback from our ethnically diverse communities that has helped us understand where we are falling short. It has also helped us explain some of our processes and practices and broken down barriers.
"This report has been shared with both our panels and our challenge now is to make sure we bring people with us and they have faith in what we are doing."
The Constabulary report can be found here: https://www.gloucestershire.police.uk/police-forces/gloucestershire-constabulary/areas/gloucestershire/sd/stats-and-data/stop-and-search-data/
The full HMICFRS report can be found here: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/wp-content/uploads/disproportionate-use-of-police-powers-spotlight-on-stop-search-and-use-of-force.pdf
More information on stop and search powers are available to read on the Constabulary website here: https://www.gloucestershire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/st-s/stop-and-search/stop-and-search-process/