Police watchdogs have welcomed Leicestershire Police’s commitment to the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS) and noted that the way in which officers carry out such procedures was critical in maintaining public confidence and ultimately the success of stop and search powers in tackling illegal drug activity and violence across Leicestershire.
Members of Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach’s Ethics, Integrity and Complaints Committee met on Friday (June 22) to review data on stop and searches carried out in the past few months, as well as body-worn camera footage of searches, and reviewed the impact both have had on detecting crime and reducing complaints.
The Force has recently increased use of stop and search powers in response to a significant rise in drug, violence and knife crime in various hotspots across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
It launched Operation Viceroy to increase the active police presence in four geographic areas at key times where crime intelligence has indicated high levels of knife crime, organised criminality and drugs supply.
The officers are able draw on the full range of enforcement powers including stop and search and other police tactics where there are fair and legitimate grounds for doing so.
As a result, April saw the highest increase in the use of stop and search since 2015 with 224 searches carried out – 49 of which were carried out specifically to detect the use of offensive weapons. The arrest rate for April stood at 26% with 58 people apprehended as a direct result of stop and search – a 46% increase on the previous month.
The Committee was told the Force expected a further uplift in the number of stop and searches being undertaken throughout 2018 as a result of operational activity and additional officer training.
Commenting on the results, Committee Chairman Professor Cillian Ryan said: “The Panel fully supports the use of stop and search powers to protect local people and keep our streets safe where there are fair and legitimate grounds for suspicion. We were impressed that the Force maintains the strict standards of monitoring expected under the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS) which it voluntarily signed up to. We also welcome the fact that Operation Viceroy is being supported by stop and search coaches and staff from the Professional Standards Department to increase confidence and trust in the proportionate use of these powers which have been in decline for several years. The high proportion of arrests as a result of this operation shows officers are using these tactics responsibly and we welcome continued positive outcomes.”
“We believe that the public understand why it is necessary to conduct stop searches; what is critical is how those procedures are conducted to ensure on-going public support”.
The Force has planned six four-day operational deployments over the next five months with one already completed in the West Leicester Neighbourhood Policing Area which resulted in 17 stop and searches, five arrests and the recovery of a firearm, knives and controlled drugs.
The PCC, who was informed of the discussions following the meeting, said: “Where it is fair and there are legitimate grounds for suspicion, asking individuals to account for their presence or behaviour is an integral part of everyday policing, and has always been so. Stop and search is one of a multitude of powers available to officers to keep our streets safe. However, it’s vital they are continuously reviewed to ensure fairness and effectiveness to maintain trust and confidence among our communities.”
During Friday’s meeting, the committee was also asked to consider a range of ethical scenarios facing the Force including the welfare of mentally unwell patients who come into police contact.
The committee was asked for its views in situations when there is no ambulance available to transport mentally unwell patients to appropriate healthcare settings in a timely manner and whether this duty should fall to police officers or not at the risk of the person becoming physically unwell on-route or a threat to staff. The committee concluded that in exceptional circumstances the police should transport the individual but stressed the need for inter-agency cooperation to reduce the volume of such requests.
The scenario was one of a range of issues highlighting the pressure being placed on the Force as a result of public funding cutbacks elsewhere.
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Posted on Tuesday 26th June 2018