The police have a number of powers of stop and search. When using any power they must always have regards to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) codes of practice.
Stop and search
On 7 March 2011 we changed the requirements for the police on how they record stop and search.
To aid the reduction in bureaucracy and time saved in recording stop and search encounters commenced section 1 of the Crime and Security Act 2010, which reduced the number of items recorded during a stop and search from 12 to 7. Mobile technology already in use will need to be adapted to take advantage of the reduction in bureaucracy of this change. Of the seven remaining items that need to be recorded, many can be done automatically, depending on the technological solution used to make the recording (for example, GPS can be used to note location of search; date and time can be automatic). The seven items are:
- Objective of search
- Grounds for search
- Identity of the officer carrying out the stop and search
This reduction will save hundreds of thousands of hours both for frontline officers and back-room support staff. The savings will vary from force to force and will be enhanced by efficient utilisation of mobile technology solutions. The reduction in recording information and bureaucracy will help enable officers to be more effective within their role and engage with the community.
Further information on stop and search is contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) code of practice A.
Stop and account
Stop and account (that is where an individual is asked to account for their presence, actions etc, but not searched) is not a defined power set out in primary legislation, but an important part of on-street policing and constitutes the next step beyond the general conversations officers have with members of the public every day.
Since the introduction of the national recording requirement, we have seen little evidence of wide-spread disproportionate use. There are indeed some forces where white people are more likely to be stopped than ethnic minorities, such as Cumbria, Humberside and Durham.
From 7 March 2011 we have removed the national requirement to record stop and account, in order to reduce police bureaucracy. Instead we have allowed police forces to make a local decision on whether they feel that recording stop and account is necessary. Those forces with little evidence of disproportionate use and little community concern should no longer need to spend valuable police hours completing forms, monitoring records and collating statistics.
We are also not going to enforce a bureaucratic process on how that decision should be made. Forces should take the decision locally. It will be for them to justify their decision and to be held accountable for its impact.
These changes will save hundreds of thousands of hours of police time. Different forces will see savings gained in different areas, some on the street due to the abolition of lengthy paper forms, and some in back-office support functions.