Human rights group praises Stop & Search reforms
A global human rights group has hailed West Midlands Police for
its Stop & Search reforms − and suggested Continental cops
could benefit from following the force's lead.
Open Society Foundations is hosting a conference in Birmingham
this week (3-6 October) to shine a light on West Midlands Police's
efforts make street stops fairer, more targeted and officers more
Senior officers from Germany, Spain and Switzerland − all
looking to review their stop and search procedures − are attending
the Cannon Street event to hear inputs from academics, UK police
chiefs and experts in the field.
They also spent time with city centre officers to observe street
stops in action.
The delegates watched as cops searched six people; one man was
arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine, while cannabis and a
psychoactive substance were seized from two others who were allowed
on their way after being offered advice.
Latest stop and search stats show that the force's
intelligence-led approach is succeeding.
In 2011-12 the force carried out 64,000 searches with just four
per cent resulting in arrests − but last year 2,900 people (or
around 16 per cent) were arrested from a total of 18,127 street
And a quarter of all stop and searches carried out in 2015-16
had a positive outcome with the subject being arrested, given a
fixed penalty fine, cautioned, receiving a cannabis warning,
agreeing a community resolution or some other disposal method.
Dr Rebekah Delsol from Open Society's Justice Initiative, said:
"Stop and search is one of the more thorny police issues…doing it
right is key to good community relations and forces around the
world are reviewing their procedures and looking for examples of
"West Midlands Police has overhauled its approach to stop and
search…and with impressive results. That's why we've chosen
Birmingham to host this event and I'm sure delegates will go away
with lots of food for thought."
Over the last two years, West Midlands Police has overhauled its
use of stop and search − and central to those changes has been
increased openness and public involvement.
Members of the public sit on scrutiny panels − which meet
bi-monthly to assess stop and search records − to give communities
a voice on the force's use of its powers, while information
detailing all encounters is now logged on a new electronic
Data is uploaded to the national police.uk website and anyone
searched by a West Midlands Police officer can easily access
information on police powers and how to give feedback via a web
address and QR code.
And all front line officers − those who may be required to stop
someone in the street − have received additional training on how
searches should be conducted.
West Midlands Police Inspector, Dave Whordley, said: "Stop and
search is an important police power. As a force we will always back
officers who use their powers legitimately and accountably, but
when stop and search is misapplied, and when people are stopped and
searched for no good reason, it is unfair, wastes valuable police
time, and damages the relationship between communities and the
"That is why we have introduced reforms designed to ensure our
stop and searches are properly targeted and intelligence-led.
"Our reforms are working: HMIC inspectors recently praised the
force for its use of stop and search, noting that we effectively
monitor the use of such powers on young people and members of black
and Asian communities."
The Open Society Foundations' conference features presentations
from the Home Office, the IPCC, College of Policing, the Equality
& Human Rights Commission and stop and search project leads
from the Met, Northamptonshire and Merseyside Police.
Assistant West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner Ashley
Bertie, added: "I am pleased to welcome police forces from across
the globe to the West Midlands to show them the progress we've made
to improve public confidence in stop and search.
"We have made stop and search fairer and more
efficient…disproportionality is down and the number of positive
results arising from stop and searches is up.
"To support this work we hold regular workshops in schools
across the region so that young people have a better understanding
of their rights and responsibilities. This work has reached
thousands of young people.
"There is still much to do, but I am pleased that the West
Midlands is leading the way on this important area."