West Midlands Police has overhauled its use of the controversial “stop and search” power − leading to an increase in its effectiveness across the region.
As one of the launch forces for the Home Office’s “best use of stop and search” scheme last summer, WMP has introduced a raft of measures to improve its use of the power.
Central to the changes has been the increased involvement from the public in monitoring how the force uses stop and search.
Scrutiny panels have been refreshed and given local communities a voice across all 10 local policing units covering the entire West Midlands.
The panels, set up jointly by West Midlands Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner, are aimed at ensuring members of the public can challenge how stop and search is used in their local areas.
The panels meet up bi-monthly to look at recent records of stop and search and help influence its use.
Critical to those panels is the data gathered from a new electronic recording system for all stop and searches, rolled out across the force last year.
The electronic recording system (known as eSearch) gives accurate, up-to-date information about how, when, why and where stop and search powers are used − a vital tool in scrutinising just how the force uses this often controversial police power.
Every six months, representatives from each stop and search scrutiny panel come together at a ” Stop and Search Commission” to consider issues at a force level.
Sulemaain Samuel, from the Birmingham West and Central stop and search scrutiny panel, said: “These panels are really important as it a chance for local people, particularly our young people, to influence how the power is used and gives an opportunity to discuss issues facing local communities.
“It’s not just a finger pointing exercise: the panels can offer solutions to any possible contentious issues and vitally these groups offer a real link between the police and communities.”
WMP has also introduced refresher training for all front line officers and supervisors which has contributed to the improvement in how officers use stop and search .
In a bid to further boost accountability and transparency, in January the force started mapping all stop and search data on the police.uk website. WMP was one of only 14 forces to initially provide data to the web portal.
Earlier this summer figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) attest that the changes made by WMP are working.
Statistics showed while the number of stop and searches carried out by the force has decreased the number of arrests has risen − proving the effectiveness has improved.
The ONS report highlights a reduction in the number of stop and searches by West Midlands Police from 33,365 in 2012/13 to 23,961 in 2013/14. The number of arrests resulting from stop and searches has risen from 2,900 in 2012/13 to 3,183 in 2013/14.
West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Yvonne Mosquito said: “The way the police use powers like stop and search is incredibly important to the public.
“WMP has led the way nationally in the changes that it has made in this important arena and the invited public scrutiny via the community stop and search panels has been a really positive move.
“In addition, the introduction of the electronic recording system and the refresher training for officers have all played a role in helping ensure West Midlands Police is using stop and search powers more proportionally and much more effectively. The latest ONS stats show that unequivocally.
“All of these positive steps have meant we have reduced the number of stop and searches, reduced disproportionality towards different communities and increased the positive outcome rate.
“We must continue to work hard to keep the public’s trust on this sensitive issue and will continue to seek new ways to make these powers even more transparent and ensure they are used fairly and proportionally towards all communities.”
Chief Superintendent Chris Todd, from West Midlands Police, said: “We are committed to ensuring that all stop and searches are conducted appropriately, ethically, impartially and objectively and that those who are stopped and searched are treated with courtesy, consideration and respect.
“The new electronic system makes the recording more accurate, easier and allows us to use the data to build a more detailed picture of how we are using stop and search .
“We are actively sharing this data with our communities so that they can be reassured we are using it effectively and proportionately.
“We are proud of the significant improvements we have made to the way in which we use stop and search as illustrated in the figures released earlier this year by the Office of National Statistics.”
To find out about joining your local scrutiny group visit: www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk/key-issues/stop-search/stop-and-search-scrutiny-panelsBack to News Archive