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.
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.