On the 7th November, NREC hosted the launch of the evaluation report into Northamptonshire Police Reasonable Grounds Panels, at the Doddridge Centre in Northampton. Mel Crofts, chair of NREC, facilitated the panel discussion. On the panel were Rebecca Delsol, from the Open Society Justice Initiative, Anjona Roy, director of NREC, Mike Shiner from the London School of Economics and Dennis Murray, Commander of North Local Policing. There was a full audience of members of the public, local professionals, members of NREC and others from the police force. The launch generated much debate,
which will be discussed here.
Let us go back, to the use of stop and search powers by the police. As the report states, this piece of police work has had a contentious history with members of the public. Although the reasonable grounds panels are not designed to address issues of disproportionality, the report states that ethnic disparities have increased in line with national trends. The increase in arrests resulting from stop and search for black people have increased from 4.1 in 2013/14 to 12.9 in 2016/17. Despite this, members of the public involved with the panels were quoted as supportive of the stop and search process, and felt that they could understand the complex role and difficulties that the police faced in undertaking their duties.
Going back to discussing the research, Dr Mike Shiner outlined the historical reasons why the reasonable grounds panels were created. After the 2011 riots, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) stated that police were not meeting the legal requirement for reasonable grounds to stop and search. Reasonable grounds panels were therefore set up to scrutinise and work with the police to ensure that the reasonable grounds were met. The evaluation period for the research was October 2014 to March 2017. In total, 348 stop and searches and their grounds were reviewed. It was found that 81% of the grounds that were reviewed failed to meet reasonable grounds. When grounds are not met, there is a process to work with the police officers issuing the grounds to support them to retrain in this particular area.
There are some positives that have come from the report that need highlighting at this point. With the introduction of the panels, it has been found that the quality of the grounds recorded by police officers has improved. However, there were some impassioned views from the event audience feeling that either it was unclear how to be part of a panel review, or where and when these take place. In reviewing the event, it is certain that more work needs to be done by the police with the community to support communication and use groups such as NREC to bridge the gap to marginalised communities.
For more information on Stop and Search, please follow the link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/19/stop-and-search-riots-2011-section-60-knife-crime-police-chiefs
Blog written by: Siobhan Hyland, PhD researcher at the University of Northampton, and member of NREC.