Bedfordshire Police have launched two key elements of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, Home Secretary Theresa May has confirmed.
Police say that while stop and search is undoubtedly an important police power, when misused it can be counter-productive, an enormous waste of police time and - when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason - hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and public.
The voluntary scheme, which was announced by the Home Secretary in April, is designed to contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios. It will also provide the public with further information on the outcome of searches.
Bedfordshire Police will:
Increase transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search and whether
there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome; and
Restrict the use of Section 60 ‘no suspicion’ powers. Already used only when
necessary, under this scheme, the chief officer must make the decision whether
to authorise the use of such powers. In cases where the chief officer anticipates
serious violence, that officer must reasonably believe that violence ‘will’ rather than ‘may’ take place, as it stands now.
Bedfordshire Police are planning to further embed elements of the scheme including: Giving members of the public the opportunity to observe stop and search in
Introducing a community complaints trigger.
All 43 police forces in England and Wales have signed up to the scheme with 24 - including Bedfordshire Police - implementing the additional data recording and “no-suspicion” measures.
All forces have committed to implement all aspects of the scheme by November.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “I am delighted Bedfordshire Police will, from today, reform their use of stop and search powers under the new Best Use of Stop and Search scheme. It will increase transparency, give us a better understanding of how stop and search is actually being used and help local communities hold the police to account for their use of the powers.”
Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Colette Paul added: “We are extremely supportive of the scheme’s recommendations and believe that they will give us an excellent opportunity to review and improve how we can better utilise this tactic for the greater good of the communities in Bedfordshire.
“Stop and search legislation was introduced through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and came into force in 1986. The scheme – which we are currently embedding into our day to day stop and search practices - is an excellent opportunity for us to put our foot on the ball some 28 years after the original legislation came into place and review the best ways to improve this tactic further.”
The Home Office has also launched a consultation on revising the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code A. The consultation on the Code, which governs the police’s use of stop and search, will last eight weeks.