Police standards watchdogs have welcomed improvements in the way stop and search activity is monitored and analysed across Leicestershire.
A new report presented to members of Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Ethics, Integrity and Complaints Panel highlights a series of proactive measures being taken by the Force to improve the integrity of stop and search powers and increase the number of positive outcomes.
Recent data shows the number of stop and searches carried out dropped dramatically in the two years between January 2015 and January 2017, from 255 to 163. During this time, there were only two complaints lodged with the Force on the use of stop and search.
Leicestershire Police outlined a raft of improvements introduced to achieve greater accountability for stop and search. These include a web page promoting best use of stop and search featuring video resources and guidance on legislation, an internal media campaign to highlight the good work taking place along with tips and advice and an intensive e-learning training programme for all frontline officers (including detectives and Special Constables) designed by the College of Policing.
In addition, the Force is set to appoint six internal “stop search coaches” who will be trained as stop and search experts to review Body Worn Video footage, become a point of contact and advice for officers and address future training needs.
Probation Officer Linda James, the Panel’s deputy chair, said: “We felt that the efforts to ensure stop and search is used in a way that is fair, open and balanced were working well. Robust scrutiny and evaluation is the key to improvement and we were pleased to see the steps that Leicestershire Police has put in place, including a strong focus on the use of Body Worn Video footage, for good practice and compliance.
“We viewed random samples of video footage and were very impressed. What we saw was a very good example of how to carry out a stop and search.
“The number of stop and searches recorded has fallen sharply over the past two years which demonstrates that officers are using the powers in a more targeted way, such as with the help of a sniffer dog on Op Fall. This was an outstanding example of good police work.”
Leicestershire Police was one of 24 forces to sign up to the Home Secretary’s Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme in 2014 which aims to use an intelligence-led approach to target stop and searches to areas where specific crimes have occurred.
The voluntary scheme is designed to contribute to an overall reduction in the use of stop and search and improve stop-to-arrest ratios while also providing the public with more information about the outcomes of searches. It also aimed to restrict the use of Section 60 ‘in anticipation of violence’ searches.
Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach recently accompanied officers on Operation Fall as they undertook searches on those suspected of carrying illegal drugs. The operation, carried out within the City’s night-time economy, uses passive drugs dogs specially trained to smell both Class A and B drugs and will signal to their handlers if they smell drugs. This indicates the person has taken drugs or is in possession of drugs.
Willy Bach said: “The Panel’s praise for the way in which Leicestershire’s officers carry out Stop and Search is reassuring for me and the communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. It is testament to the hard work and training that has been invested in this area and I hope gives people confidence that they will be treated fairly and with sensitivity if they are stopped and searched by the police.
“I’ve witnessed first-hand how effective it can be on both a recent Operation Fall in the City, and when I accompanied officers during the recent Leicestershire City V Derby County football match. I was extremely impressed by the professionalism and diligence they showed in their contact with the public as well as the positive outcomes of their work.
“Stop and search is primarily used to disrupt illegal drug activity in Leicestershire and the assistance of the passive drugs dogs offers an additional tool of reassurance to the public on the legitimacy of such searches. We must continue to review, challenge, and act to improve the validity of these powers and ensure our communities understand and how and why they are being used.
“Stop and Search is also used to prevent possession of knives, which can lead to, in my view, use of a knife.”
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Posted on Thursday 13th April 2017