It appears as if there has been a number of issues that have arose in relation to the Northamptonshire Police’s ‘stop and search’ and it has been argued that it gives the impression that they are abusing their powers.
PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) introduced the power of ‘stop and search’ for the police back in 1984. However, ever since this was introduced there has been rising controversial issues regarding how effective this truly is and whether the police have specifically targeted those of ethnic minority background.
There has been concerns that the police appear to be racial profiling Asian and black individuals.
In addition to this there has concerns that younger people have been target more.
But is this true? And what are the reasons why this is perceived in the society? Why are the police targeting these groups more?
Back in 2008 The University of Northampton conducted a survey on the proportionality of those of ethnic minority was excessively higher than those of a white background. Then in 2013 the police force orally referred to a success rate of 15% of stop and search’s that were conducted, which then rose concerns why 85% of cases of suspicion turned out to be ‘unfitting’.
Many stops and searches require the police to have reasonable grounds for suspicion that you are carrying items, such as; weapons, drugs or stolen goods. However, in exceptional circumstances they do not need judicious reasons to stop and search you, but they must always tell you why they have stopped and searched you. Though saying this, there has been investigations that some police officers fail to do this, resulting in individuals being wiped of their human rights which ultimately results in the search being unlawful.
A recent investigation in 2017 was carried out on the Northamptonshire police force by inspectors, which documented that the force has fallen from “good” to “requires improvement” in its latest report which looks into how fairly it treats the public and its staff. Which raises questions as to why this is?
“In 2015/16 in the local population of Northamptonshire Police, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people were three times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Black people were five-and-a-half times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.”
It is clearly evident that there has been a deterioration in the proportionality of black people, then those of any ethnic group that are being stopped and searched.
In addition to this it is clear that there has also been a deterioration in the proportionality of younger people being stopped and searched also.
Officers have not been able to explain why this is the case, but instead have stated that “it is unfortunate but do not know why this is the case” which also raising concerns why they appear to be doing this but do not understand why?
The force has stated that they are seeking ways to improve this, based on the most recent report. Though, there are solutions available that we as Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council provide, but yet senior officers have only deployed 6 officers to take advantage of this? Which again raises more questions as to the simple fact of ‘are they really trying to tackle this obvious issue?’
We offer training for police officers, which we have been in discussions with the police force back in 2014 on how they can improve disproportionality, but considering they have over 3500 employees and volunteers in Northamptonshire alone, it strikes concern that only 6 have been trained.
So the question is now, can we really believe that the force does not understand why they have a deterioration in the proportionality, if it is as simple as tackling a small area of improvement that will effectively improve the force overall?
In advance to this there many ways that we as individuals can avoid such unlawful stop and searches occurring, such as:
- Being co-operative with the officers
- Asking questions
- Making notes detailing what has occurred
- Looking and listening to the officer
So although, it is clearly evident there are issues within the force and who they are targeting, we can still work together as individuals to bring this proportionate down.
Posted by: Rebecca McKenzie
Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council Volunteer