Members of a police scrutiny panel have asked Leicestershire Police to provide more data and context around the use of stop and search powers to determine their effectiveness to fight crime.
Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach’s Ethics, Integrity and Complaints Committee met to discuss the Force’s Annual Report 2019/20 on stop and search performance and proportionality.
The report shows during 2019-20, police officers in Leicestershire conducted a total of 4,631 stop searches – 20% higher than the previous year’s figure of 3,711.
During 2019-20, 746 arrests were made as a direct result of the use of stop and search, which is a positive* outcome rate of 35.7% - an increase on the previous year’s outcome rate of 31.2%. This figure has increased steadily since 2015 when it was around 19% and demonstrates that the Force is using the tactic in a more intelligence-led way.
However, members of the committee said the figures still showed almost 65% of stop and searches had not resulted in arrest and requested more information to analyse why, including additional context around incidents.
Further concern was voiced on the disparity between race and stop and search data, which showed a Black person is five times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person in Leicestershire. Proportionality data from March 2020 also shows a person from an Asian background is 1.35 times more likely to be searched than a white person in the county.
It was noted that Leicestershire’s disproportionality rates were well below the national average, and that it is expected that disproportionality will reduce when the next Census data is collected in 2021. However, the Force agreed with the committee who said further information was necessary to explain the disproportionality and enable members to deliver additional scrutiny on legitimacy of the powers.
Committee member Dr. Steven Cammiss asked for clarity on the disproportionality around searches conducted under the Misuse of Drugs Act in the county which showed Black individuals were 13.19% more likely to be searched than a white individual. Dr Cammiss said the data was still cause for concern and above the national average.
“While those bare differentials are not necessarily evidence of discrimination, ,” he said, “from a legitimacy point of view, that’s work you need to do as a Force, to take those figures and ask what’s going on here, can we defend what’s happening here?”
Deputy Chief Constable Rob Nixon welcomed the constructive feedback and said the Force had already begun to capture the triggers for stop and search action which would provide additional context to the figures. He said the Force is currently working with De Montfort University to understand the totality of stop and search figures and had offered access to all crime information including geographical data, to understand disproportionality.
“It’s extremely complex but getting into that level of understanding is definitely where we are heading,” he said.
The Committee heard Leicestershire Police had issued 1,500 Body-Worn Video Cameras (BWV) to all frontline officers and staff and that there was an expectation that these would be turned on to provide transparency and accountability in all public interactions. Members of the Committee recommended that senior officers should issue an instruction that this would be the case and not rely on expectation.
Speaking after the meeting, Willy Bach said: “It is absolutely vital the use of stop and search powers are independently scrutinised to maintain accountability and public confidence.
“While stop and search is a highly effective tool in keeping our streets safe, we all understand the impact of its use can be damaging for community relations and trust in the police, especially where there is any perceived unfairness and disproportionality.
“I welcome the insight and comments made by the committee and support the provision of additional information which gets to the depths of this disparity and exposes all the facts.
“It is absolutely critical these powers continue to be used in a fair, ethical and effective manner and we listen and act upon the concerns of the public. Where disparity exists it is right that we rigorously examine the circumstances, and I will be working closely with the Force to ensure we improve the quality of interactions and maintain the highest standards of legitimacy and effectiveness in the future.”
*A positive outcome is a stop search which leads to an arrest or another outcome such as a warning or a report for summons.
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Posted on Wednesday 3rd February 2021