Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner says “demonstrable improvements” need to be made in the way officers use stop and search powers.
Following the publication of two consultations into the use of stop and search, PCC Adam Simmonds has written to Chief Constable Adrian Lee outlining a number of changes he would like to see in the way police officers engage with members of the public.
One of the major issues identified from the consultation, which was completed by 1,161 people, was that fewer than half (49 per cent) of respondents said their opinion of Northamptonshire Police was positive.
The results showed those that had personally been stopped and searched, but also to a lesser degree those that knew someone else that had, were more negative about Northamptonshire Police than those that had no experience of it.
Over half of respondents who had been stop and searched stated they were not offered a stop and search form, a legal requirement.
In his letter to Mr lee, Mr Simmonds states: “I am disappointed by the high levels of people who are stopped and searched who have reported not being offered a form as a record of the encounter.
“I think we both should see this matter addressed as a matter of urgency. Too often officers are failing to explain why they have stopped an individual or to provide their details to the member of the public they have stopped.
“This must be rectified to improve public confidence in the powers and the force more generally.”
Mr Simmonds said he was also disappointed by the number of respondents who felt that they were treated with a lack of respect or civility.
He said: “I expect the style and behaviours of officers in relation to this matter to change.
“Every member of the public has the right to expect civility and respect in their dealings with the police. I know that there are times when the situations officers find themselves in are challenging but I personally expect officer behaviour to be improved in relation to this matter.”
Mr Simmonds said it was his view that the current communications with the public in relation to Stop and Search are “inadequate.”
He said: “The communities of the county need much greater involvement in the development and refinement of Stop and Search in the county.
“A particular focus should be on engaging with young people from both white and black and ethnic minority backgrounds. I expect to see a major uplift in involvement of the communities of the county to shape the Force’s future approach to Stop Search.”
The PCC said the force needed to make the Stop and Search policy more accessible to the public and give them more information about the complaints procedure.
He said: “The Force has a difficult job to do. Stop and Search is an effective tactic when deployed appropriately.
“It is clear that it impacts on the public perception of trust and confidence when aspects of the process fail. It is my expectation now, following these two separate reports to see significant progress on this matter. I will be looking for demonstrable improvements on the areas highlighted in the coming months, culminating in a formal review of progress in 12 months time.”
In response, Chief Constable Adrian Lee said he welcomed the reports and recognises that stop and search, which he accepted could be a contentious tactic.
He said: “The number of stop searches carried out in the county has been reducing in recent years but it is always important they are conducted in a manner that respects the sensitivities for the individual concerned.
“We are committed to making further improvements to how we handle stop and search and have already volunteered to be one of the first forces to sign up to the Home Secretary’s new Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, which will launch later this year.”
Anjona Roy, chief executive of Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council, said the stop and search policy was having a negative effect on public perception of trust and confidence in the police.
“The majority of people stopped and search simply aren’t receiving report of their searches and as a result the stops are being undertaken unlawfully and this is a matter of grave concern.
“In addition despite assurances that issues of disproportionality of black African and Caribbean people being address the problem of more black people stopped with no outcome is getting worse not better”.