Police officers in Northamptonshire are to be given ‘three strikes’ on stop and search errors, leading to their powers being revoked if they continually get it wrong.
Northamptonshire Police has adopted a policy whereby a community panel - consisting of senior officers and members of the public - can review stop and searches carried out in the county.
Supt Andy Cox said the panel has the power to withdraw stop and search powers from individual officers who continue to carry out unreasonable searches, when they don’t carry it out either legally or ethically. In the last year 180 out of 2,000 stop searches were referred to the panel.
He said: “On the first two occasions, the officer will be given words of advice and re-training but on the third, they will have their powers suspended until I believe they are fit to use them again.
“The reason they get suspended is that we do not have confidence they can do it properly.”
Supt Cox said any officers who have their powers removed but then sees someone they believe needs to be stopped and searched would have to call for a colleague to do so.
The tough tactic comes after Northamptonshire Police announced people would now have the option of seeking a face-to-face apology from the officer in question if the stop and search grounds were not felt to be reasonable.
Supt Cox said he was not worried that officers would be inhibited by the measure, perhaps not stopping someone in case a complaint is made.
He said: “We want our officers to use these powers with reasonable grounds. If they’re not able to do that then I don’t want them doing stop search.
“They have everything the could wish to have in terms of making carrying it out legally and ethically.”
Crime commissioner Adam Simmonds said the problem of incorrect stop and searches is particularly prevalent among young people and ethnic minorities, with two thirds of all people stopped and searched in Northamptonshire last year aged between 13 and 24.
He said: “Stop and search is an important part of policing. It helps catch criminals and offers protection to the public. But it must be used responsibly if the public are to continue to have trust in the police.
“Police officers who carry out stop and searches must use their powers responsibly and be accountable for their actions. If an officer fails to follow the correct procedures he or she must face the consequences.”
A stop and search report by Mr Simmonds’ office, which is based on interviewing more than 1,000 people in Northamptonshire reveals
- 64 per cent of people stopped and searched in Northamptonshire were aged between 13 and 24.
- Of the respondents who had been stopped and searched, half (49 per cent) thought the police officer had no justification in stopping and searching them, 41 per cent disagreed that the officer/s treated them with respect and 39 per cent disagreed that the officer treated them fairly.
- 57 per cent of survey respondents said that they did not receive a copy of the stop and search form and they were not offered one.
- 68 per cent of survey respondents said the officer did not give them their details (name, ID number).