Home Secretary praises Wiltshire Police for 'Stop and Search' reforms

This Is Wiltshire: Home Secretary Theresa May Home Secretary Theresa May

Home Secretary Theresa May said today praised Wiltshire Police for adopting two key elements of the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme.

The voluntary scheme, announced by the Home Secretary in April, is designed to contribute to a reduction in the overall use of stop and search by police, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios.

It will also provide the public with further information on the outcome of searches.

From today, Wiltshire Police said it will:

Increase transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search and whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome;

Restrict the use of Section 60 “no suspicion” powers. Under this scheme, the chief officer must make the decision whether to authorise the use of such powers.

In cases where the chief officer anticipates serious violence, that officer must reasonably believe that violence “will” rather than “may” take place, as it stands now.

By November, Wiltshire Police will fully comply with the scheme by giving members of the public the chance to observe stop and search in practice and introducing a community complaints procedure.

Today the Home Secretary announced that all 43 police forces in England and Wales have signed up to the scheme and 24, including Wiltshire Police, will implement the additional data recording and “no-suspicion” measures from today.

All forces have committed to implement all aspects of the scheme by November.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Nobody wins when stop and search is misused, it can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police.

“That is why I am delighted Wiltshire Police will from today reform their use of stop and search powers under the new Best Use of Stop and Search scheme.

"It will increase transparency, give us a better understanding of how stop and search is actually being used and help local communities hold the police to account for their use of the powers.

Chief Constable Pat Geenty said: “We are supportive of these changes implemented by the Home Office and the College of Policing.

"We particularly look forward to the future introduction of the ‘lay observation’ component of the scheme, where the public scrutinise our use of stop and search.

"This will help ensure accountability and scrutiny of the use of stop and search powers by Wiltshire Police.

“The Best Use of the Stop and Search Scheme is designed to contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios and deliver a higher level of customer service to the residents of Wiltshire and Swindon.

“We will be providing further information to the public with the outcome of searches publicised via our force website and will interact more closely with members of the public via the lay observation.

“In the year March 2013/14 Wiltshire Police recorded 6,577 stop and searches, equating to the power being used 18 times per day on average.

“In the year 2013/14 11% of Wiltshire stop searches resulted in an arrest outcome. This is above the national average which sits at 9%.”

From today, stop and search data will also be available on data.police.uk. The additional information which forces will capture as a result of the Scheme will be published on this website in due course.

The Home Office has also launched a consultation on revising the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code A. The consultation on the Code, which governs the police’s use of stop and search, will last eight weeks.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said: “Stop and search powers are necessary to help us tackle crime and keep people safe but it is clear that they are being misused too often. This can leave resentment in our communities and hinder our ability to prevent crime.

“Every police force in England and Wales has today committed to the best use of stop and search scheme to improve the way we use these important powers.

"Under this scheme search outcomes will be recorded in more detail so we have a greater understanding of how the powers are being used.

"Searches which do not require reasonable grounds of suspicion will reduce and communities will have greater powers to question police over their use of stop and search.

“The College of Policing will play our part by reviewing and developing the evidence-base, training and guidance so that police officers at every level in the service are equipped with the right knowledge and skills to conduct effective stop and search.

"We have already built links with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to look at whether unconscious bias is affecting officers’ use of stop and search.

“There are many areas of good practice where stop and search has reduced, the quality of encounter has gone up and arrest ratios increased.

"The college will be sharing that across the country so that we see the changes needed to ensure that the communities we serve have confidence in their police officers to use these important powers proportionately, effectively and fairly."

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