Stop And Search – A Different Truth

I am indebted to @kathryn_gale for tweeting a photo on Monday.  Without her tweet I would most definitely have missed it, as the Daily Fail is not high on my reading list.

 The article contains what I consider to be a bombshell allegation that Theresa May may have told the odd Melton Mowbray whilst participating in her favourite sport of Police Bashing recently.

As you can see in the article, it is alleged that she was advised how to present her article on Stop and Search in order to best make the Police look bad, and improve her own standing within the Afro Caribbean community.

Unfortunately she didn’t reckon for her OLD speechwriter, Alasdair Palmer, who thought he could smell smoking rodent, did some digging and remembered an old piece of research by the Home Office, some years ago, that concluded something quite different.

By studying the ethnic composition of ‘the streets’ when Stop/Search was being carried out, rather than the ethnic composition of the town/city generally, they concluded this;

“Overall, across the five sites, the findings of this research did not suggest any general pattern of bias against people from minority ethnic groups either as a wholeor for particular groups
:● white people tended to be stopped or searched at a higher rate to the available population
;● Asian people tended to be under-represented in those stopped or searched (with some exceptions); and
● black people have a more mixed experience, sometimes under-represented in stops and searches and sometimes over-represented.”

The fact that this is old research does not mean that it is not currently relevant.  I am unaware whether there has been any further research updating the subject, but I’m guessing not, and I have sent a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for copies of any research and/or analysis on this subject in the last 5 years. So if Mrs May has based her speech on something else we should all be able to see that work soon, or not.

I assume that “Home Office research reveals that white people are more likely to be Stop/Searched by Police” does not make such a compelling headline so this particular piece of work has been sidelined, but you can find all 109 pages of it here.  In reality, the Executive Summary will probably satisfy your needs though.

All this leaves me with the thought that a cynical person might think that the Home Secretary has not only bashed the Police unjustly, kicking up a storm as she went, but possibly even misled Parliament, which I’m led to believe is not a good thing to do.

You Know You’re Old And Crusty When…….

Someone suggests that you might need Refresher Training for Stop and Search.

Stop and Search SHOULD be taught in Basic Training and I’d be absolutely amazed if it isn’t, it’s a Bread and Butter tool of Policing, but it does need to be understood and not abused.  It is within the abilities of EVERY Police Recruit to understand what is required before conducting a Stop and Search, plus what needs to be done afterwards to comply with PACE and the Codes of Practice.

So you’re probably not surprised to hear that I was a tad pissed off to find this newspaper headline

Stop-and-search: Police training will challenge ‘unconscious bias’ of officers to cut down on unlawful use of tactic

Hundreds of police officers around the country are to have their prejudices challenged by a training programme that aims to reduce discrimination among those using stop-and-search powers

The new approach has been developed by the College of Policing and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), after the Home Secretary, Theresa May, commissioned a review of the way the police are trained – with “unconscious bias” to be monitored as part of new professional standards.

If I’ve got this right, this new piece of work is going to be led by Nick Glynn from the College of Policing.

Nick Glynn, stop-and-search lead at the College of Policing, said: “This training will explore the impact of stop and search, examine the effect of unconscious bias and ensure officers work within the rules when stopping members of the public.”

OK Nick, I’ll start off with the unpopular line “Who is to say that the bias is unconscious?”  The officer may have perfectly valid reasons to conduct the search that they have just made are or just about to make.  There maybe nothing unconscious in their bias at all but an Intelligence Led or Evidence Led approach has been adopted quite reasonably (and lawfully).

It seems to me that a HUGE assumption has been made that Stop/Searches are conducted with the benefit of ‘unconscious bias’.  Who has decreed this?  Who is it, Nick, that has conducted a scientific analysis of Stop/Searches and found that many of them were carried out as the result of ‘unconscious bias’?  Could you please provide me a link to this important piece of work so that I can study it?

If I was still serving I would be highly insulted to be told that I was going on Refresher Training for Stop/Search, even if I HAD been selected at Random.

If there is a genuine need for ongoing training in Stop/Search then I suggest that there are deeper underlying problems, an experienced officer should be able to initiate a Stop/Search (or not) in their sleep.  If a high number are acting unlawfully then surely this is a Disciplinary as well as a Training Issue.  Today’s generation of Police Officers are, in my submission, highly professional, and this should be well within their abilities.

The ongoing effect of this exercise, I suspect, will be that many officers will cease, or drastically reduce, their Stop/Searches, not because they are invalid or unlawful, but because the officers will be reluctant to be thought of as ‘unconsciously biased’, a term that smacks of ‘Institutional Racism’.  That is probably what the Home Secretary is not-so-secretly hoping for. What IS unlawful or unethical is using Stop/Search and Hit Rates as a Performance Indicator

I am SO glad that I have retired, it is no mystery to me why serving officers would be reluctant to recommend Policing to their families and friends any more, and exercises like this do not help.

To Stop Or Not To Stop – The PCC’s Answer

After my earlier post on Stop/Search I forwarded a copy of it to Adam Simmonds, the Northamptonshire PCC.  To be honest I didn’t expect a response, but to be fair, he engaged with me on the open medium of Twatter and offered his explanation and referred me to the relevant report on his website.

Reproduced below are his words, verbatim for fairness.

I cannot agree with much of what he said, but here is his explanation of the policy;

Nowhere in this dialogue does he explain where it is that he and the Chief Constable get the legal right to withhold this statutory power from any officer no matter how bad they are at Stop and Search.  He also had no answer to my being horrified at his assertion that one third (26%). (I know, his maths not mine) of all Stop Searches have no basis in law.  When I pointed out that Stop/Search was an officer’s Bread and Butter and it was incomprehensible to me that they couldn’t use this power properly and needed retraining, he again had no answer.

The whole basis of his policy seems to be based on this;

The OPCC’s report, which is based on interviewing over 1,000 people in Northamptonshire to understand their attitudes towards the police’s use of stop and search, reveals:

64% of people stopped and searched in Northamptonshire were aged between 13 and 24.

Of the respondents who had been stopped and searched, half (49%) thought the police officer had no justification in stopping and searching them, 41% disagreed that the officer/s treated them with respect and 39% disagreed that the officer treated them fairly.

57% of survey respondents said that they did not receive a copy of the stop and search form and they were not offered one.

68% of survey respondents said that the officer did not give them their details (name, ID number).

The above figures were based on 1,000 respondents to a survey. 1,000. Out of a TOTAL population of approx 700,000, less than a quarter of a percent of the population responded.  Statistically valid?  Possibly not.

The one thing that did warm my soul was reading the report on his website and discovering that no less s personage than Duwayne Brooks will be conducting a review of Stop and Search for Mr Simmonds.

In addition to publishing the findings of his report into stop search and the police response to that report with their dramatic changes, Mr Simmonds is also today launching a further review into stop and search to ensure that practise matches up to policy; that proposed changes are implemented and an examination of public confidence and awareness in this crucial police power.

Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen Lawrence, who was with him on the night of his murder, will be carrying out the review for the PCC.

Some time later he reappeared on my Timeline, in response to a suggestion that Body Worn Video might be useful;

But didn’t seem to have a reply to this

So I guess the jury is still out, but by no means a convincing performance from the PCC in question, and no explanation where the authority comes from to suspend an officer’s rights.

To Stop Or Not To Stop, That Is The Question

I saw and read a whole load of ‘stuff’ yesterday about Stop and Search.  Some of it was, quite frankly, bollocks in my opinion, much of it was supportive and well-intentioned.  A very small percentage was just plain lunacy. I’ll leave you to work out which was which.

It all started of with Adam Simmonds, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire and his view that Police Officers who abused their right to Stop and Search suspects should have that right taken away from them.  Northamptonshire police has quietly introduced the sanction that has already seen eight police officers banned from being able to use the power on the streets.   Simmonds, a Tory PCC, said officers would have their stop-and-search powers removed if they had conducted searches that were deemed inappropriate on three occasions.

My initial reaction (the polite one) was “who on earth does he think he is that he can remove a lawful power granted by statute?”  No less a personage than @InspectorGadgetBlogs reminded us all of this.Denning

Oh, but then it got so much worse.

“If someone is stopped for no reason or inappropriately then that person is a victim. I want the restorative justice approach for cops. I want a cop to say sorry.  This will make the police more accountable and give the public confidence in the police. It’s a good opportunity for cops to step up their game,” Simmonds said.

My thoughts on this, for what they are worth, are that

1)  3 ‘Strikes’, as it has been referred to, should not mean “You’re Out”, it should mean that the officer is facing some kind of disciplinary enquiry and sanction, not a removal of his/her lawful powers.  What use is a Police Officer on the streets who can’t Stop/Search someone when appropriate because they’ve been Red Carded?

2) If the officer has acted with good intent then the Police and Crime Commissioner should be supporting that officer.  It seems like another Tory PCC buddying up to Theresa May in her war against the Police.

3) 3 unethical or inappropriate Stop/Searches indicates a lack of supervision as much as anything else.  Tighten up the supervision, problem goes away, everybody happy.

4) Why on earth has the Chief Constable not put the PCC right and come out fighting on behalf of his officers’ powers?

5) EVERY single time an innocent person is stabbed, shot etc by  a weapon that has clearly been carried through the streets I want Mr Simmonds to think on that and hang his head in shame.  The job of the Police in containing knife crime in particular is NEVER easy, you don’t need your own PCC making it twice as hard.

6)  Apologise for an ‘Inappropriate’ Stop/Search?  Who is to determine and assess ‘appropriate’?  Almost every officer I ever knew would offer an EXPLANATION as to why somebody had been stopped, and that was normally sufficient.  To haul an officer in weeks later to apologise to that person is more akin to Ritual Humiliation than Apology.  If the officer has been disciplined for his conduct and found ‘Guilty’ then an apology MIGHT be appropriate, but in the absence of a formal Finding of Guilt, or conviction at Court, then I would suggest that this policy does nothing but weaken the image of an already beleaguered  Police Service.

I have no idea what the local and national Federation make of this lunacy, but perhaps local Fed can work with Mr Simmonds and the Chief Constable to come up with a solution to a perceived problem that is less half-baked.

Was It April Fools Day Yesterday?

I was absolutely stunned at the amount of total bolleaux in the British Press yesterday in relation to Policing.

It was so bad that I actually find it difficult to put it in an order of “badness”.

a) We have the two bold headlines in The Independent;

Black people still far more likely to be stopped and searched by Police than other ethnic groups

and

Stop and Search – Can transparency end this ABUSE of Police Powers

The first article even goes on to point out that a black person is SEVENTEEN times more likely to be stopped and searched in Dorset than a white person. What this lazy, biased piece of journalism doesn’t tell you is that according to the last National Census Dorset is a predominantly white county.  97.9% of Dorset residents describe themselves as ‘white’.

When I was a-coppering I was encouraged to stop and challenge anybody or anything that looked “out of place”! are The Independent encouraging our Police Officers to abandon their duty and ignore something that doesn’t look right because of the person’s ethnicity? Really?

I have said it many times before, EVERY Stop/Search has to have sufficient GROUNDS.  What analysis of the GROUNDS was conducted by The Independent?   None I’m guessing, lazy, provocative journalism, generalisation of the worst kind.

Every Stop/Search record has to be SUPERVISED.  What analysis of the supervision was conducted by the Independent?  None I’m guessing.

EVERYBODY who is Stop/Searched is entitled under PACE to request a hard copy of the Stop/Search record from the Police Station.  Did the Independent conduct any research/analysis of how many hard copies were requested and supplied?  Probably not would be my guess.

Independent – Please give me your responses to the 3 questions above, you are quick enough to allege that Police are ABUSING (your word) their powers, presumably you have the evidence to substantiate it.  To make matters worse, other newspapers have picked up on your story and run with it.

The Grauniad represented your article like this

Stop and search is a disgrace across the UK – not just in our cities

Stop siding with the government and take up the cause of Law and Order.   Stop and Search is NOT a disgrace across the country, pure statistics prove nothing.  Do some actual work and look at the story behind your lurid headlines BEFORE you publish.

b)  we have the BBC’s decision to produce a ‘Documentary Drama’ about the ‘shooting of Mark Duggan’.

BBC to make drama documentary about the Mark Duggan shooting

The film, Lawfully Killed, will tell story of the Tottenham man who was shot by a police marksman in 2011, triggering riots.  Exactly, the events (not helped by the IPCC it should be added) did indeed lead to riots.  What possible good can come from making this film?  The wounds are not yet healed but the BBC think it is appropriate to pour salt in large measure into those wounds?  We have had the investigations, we have had the inquest it was established that Duggan was lawfully killed by an authorised Police marksman.  Where is the story?  What are you trying to achieve?

c) The Grauniads 3rd contribution to mayhem and mischief this week was

British police to patrol Magaluf and Ibiza

Although to be fair to the Grauniad, on this occasion they WERE only reporting the news and seem to have done so reasonably accurately even if they did withhold one vital piece of the story.

Twitter was awash with incredulity yesterday at this bizarre headline.  However both West Midlands Police and NPCC have confirmed that it is a true story.

 

Neither DCC Thompson nor NPCC responded when it was pointed out that the cost of this exercise was not the issue, but the fact that officers were even being considered for deployment abroad in the face of the savage cuts already imposed by the Home Secretary.

Fiddling While Policing Burns
Fiddling While Policing Burns

Two officers for 2 weeks does not cost a fortune and will allegedly be funded in total by the Foreign Office (we shall see shall we) but the residents of West Midlands undoubtedly expect their Police to be policing the West Midlands. In an age when the public seldom see a warranted Police Officer patrolling, how do they feel about two of them patrolling the streets and beaches of Ibiza and Magaluf?

None too happy I suspect, but once again, that doesn’t seem to matter.

I must adjust my calendar, it does seem clear that yesterday was April Fools Day and we are all invited to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

 

mad hatter

 

#DoingItRight

It sounds boring.  “What has it got to do with me?”

Doing it right is an excellent piece of advice and becomes more relevant by the day.

Policing is under attack from any number of directions. High Profile cases are being lost at Court that really should have been won.

Cruella and friends are constantly chiselling away at Stop and Search.

Our new best friend Sophie Khan is constantly waiting in the wings to sue us when someone gets Tasered.

Doing it right doesn’t even stop at the Front Line. Every aspect of everything we do should be done right. The Home Secretary would love to cut back on Stop and Search, even in the face of the seemingly rising volume of Knife Crime. If Stop and Search is Done Right and properly checked and supervised after the event we can robustly defend a) the individual Stop/Searches and b) the practice as a legitimate tactic. WE know it’s vital, but we have a better chance of retaining it if we Do It Right.  I’m in no way saying that you don’t, just putting my thoughts together.

When the evidence stacked up against a suspect is so very overwhelming it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and assume that the quantity and quality of the evidence will see it through the Courts.  When the evidence is all-conquering it’s time to challenge the procedure. How galling is it to get a case thrown out at Court because there has been a slip up in procedure or something has been forgotten?  It’s becoming more and more important to make sure the procedure and paperwork are 100% as well as the evidence.

It’s absolutely VITAL that Professional Standards Departments Do It Right.  Morale is at an all time low, we don’t need to be fitted up by our own.  If wrong-doing is found or suspected it’s perfectly right and appropriate for PSD/DPS to investigate that wrong doing, and prosecute if appropriate, but they too need to Do It Right. We’ve heard too many instances where PSD/DPS have not done it right, particularly in relation to Disclosure.  This does no good for anybody, is unprofessional, unethical and quite possibly unlawful. #DoItRight PSD and you’ll have much more credibility, support and possibly more satisfaction.  If it is possible to DISPROVE an allegation why would you not do that?  What possible satisfaction can you get from stitching up your own? #DoItRight and everybody benefits. Stop chasing targets and chase the truth for every allegation.  I have no problem hearing the truth, however unsavoury, but it gives me no satisfaction hearing stories of malpractice within PSD/DPS.

Authorising Officers, you Inspectors and Superintendents, you also have a duty to #DoItRight.  Every application from anything from a simple Subscriber Check to intrusive surveillance, don’t just sign it. Read it. Make sure it’s appropriate, make sure all the boxes have been ticked. Don’t just automatically sign it and move on, then we might not be where we are today, appearing in front of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and even if we do we can defend it robustly and confidently.

Finally, it is only by Doing It Right that we can demonstrate, with confidence, how time consuming certain activities (like prisoner processing, report writing, Crime reporting etc) are and the true effects of budgetary cuts are having on routine Policing.  I know how tempting it is to cut corners. I know what it’s like to have the Duty Inspector bellowing at you to get back out on the streets, but sometimes that’s the wrong thing to do.  Sometimes it’s vital to finish what you’re doing before you move on to the next call.

Nobody likes “No Unit To Deal” but we didn’t ask to be put in this situation.  A call only becomes your responsibility once you’ve accepted it. You’re assigned, from that very second you are responsible for its outcome.  Once you are free to accept the next assignment, fine you’re in play. Let “No Unit To Deal” become the Management’s problem. It can become one of the statistics they’re so fond of to help show that we actually need more Bobbies, more Tecs, more Dogs, more Horses, more Cars.

I know it’s a pain in the arse. I know it doesn’t sit easily with the Police desire to get the Job done at any cost, however difficult. I know it doesn’t sit well with our desire to serve the Public well, but maybe by #DoingItRight we are actually serving the Public well, if that helps to justify the demand for More Not Less.  We all KNOW that all you get for Less is Less. The only thing you can achieve with Less is Less.

Work Smart, be Efficient, do your very best, but Policing still needs more Cops, not less.

In my humble opinion #DoingItRight in EVERYTHING may just help us to achieve that long term.

Home Secretary – PLEASE Listen To The News

Today I shall be polite, I will even say please.

I seem to have lost track completely of the number of news items, Tweets, Facebook entries etc etc that relate to Stabbings, Shootings Murders, and Seizure of Bladed Articles that have sprung up in just the last few weeks.  It is an incredible number, or so it seems.

And it isn’t just in London, just recently we have had

Man arrested over stabbing in Preston

Three men stabbed outside London chess club

Man rushed to hospital after ‘stabbing’ on Mansfield Road

Man stabbed outside Gloucester Cathedral

Boyfriend charged with murdering woman, 21, found stabbed to death near the pony sanctuary where she worked

They are just a few of the recent, lurid, headlines.  Not good.

Only last night we heard of a double-shooting in Wood Green, London. One fatal, one critical.

 

 

 

What do all of these (and all the others) have in common?

I’ll tell you Home Secretary.  The Common Denominator is that all of these cases the weapons were carried, in one form or another, through the streets.

In April last year you announced a major reform of Stop and Search:-

Stop and search: Theresa May announces reform of police stop and search

In February this year you reiterated your views

Rein in stop and search, May tells police: Home Secretary says she will change the law if forces do not halt ‘excessive and inappropriate’ use of powers

You are entitled to your opinions Home Secretary, of course you are, but so are we.

Speaking for myself I do not know a single Police Officer (and I know many) who uses Stop and Search as a tool to wind up any sector of the community, BME or otherwise.  ONE of the main issues for Stop and Search is the Protect Life i.e. stop and search for weapons etc.  This is about Saving Lives.  Not to mention the fact that every single Police Officer who conducts a Stop/Search for Weapons potentially puts themselves in harm’s way to do so.  Do you really think that they’re doing that for a laugh?  To wind up a section of the community?  No, they’re doing it because it’s their job, to Protect Life, Maintain Public Tranquility.

Under existing legislation, and you should know this, EVERY single Stop/Search has to be Justified.  There have to be Grounds.  Afterwards, the record of that Stop/Search has to be signed off by a Supervising Officer.  The person stop/searched has the right to request a copy of that written record, and must be so informed.  What on earth is wrong with that?  Where is that inadequate accountability?

Do you REALLY want to stop the Police from taking weapons off our streets?

I have been polite Home Secretary, maybe you could do me the honour of responding.

 

I thank you.
STOP PRESS

I have now been informed of a fatal stabbing in Llanridod Wells last week, even in rural Wales knives are a problem.  Please Home Secretary, if you don’t like Stop n Search, tell us how we may find the weapons and take them off the streets, and so protect our Public.

There is no reason at all for these ‘Zombie Killer’ knives to be available in the UK, we are not, currently. Overrun with Zombies.  Just imagine the damage they can do.  This was seized recently.