Northamptonshire Police Reasonable
Terms of Reference
The Reasonable Grounds Panel (RGP) was developed by Northamptonshire Police as an innovative approach to regulating Police stop and search.
The Panel provides a model for community Involvement in the regulation of officers’ use of their powers, through public scrutiny and transparency in use of S & S. one that provides useful lessons for other jurisdictions dealing with concerns over the lawful and fair use of police power.
Terms of Reference
The Reasonable Grounds Panel supports community participation in identifying and
• The Panel involves members of the public as equal partners in decisions about whether individual officers have met the legal requirement for reasonable grounds to conduct stop and search.
• Panels are held in different community venues across the county as part of the process to diversify public participation and promote open dialogue. Each panel contains two police officers (including a senior officer) and a minimum target of five community members. Some panels have contained as many as 15 community members. Panel meetings are facilitated by the coordinator who is a police officer and a community co- coordinator.
The reasonable grounds panel seeks to:
• Identify learning and development to those not reaching the required supervisory standards to have an impact on police practice.
• Influence officer behaviour positively in use of stop and search powers. Improve the use of Stop and Search by identifying officers/repeat circumstances where reasonable grounds are not met. This information can be passed onto senior officers and the Stop and Search Working Group to address resistance (identified in the OSF report) in discussion with the panel coordinators, particularly among highest users of stop and search such as the proactive teams.
• Build community trust in police use of stop and search.
• Assist the force in improving policy and use of stop and search.
• Demonstrate openness and transparency through the effective public scrutiny of search grounds thereby increasing contact and trust within the community.
• Hold quarterly meetings in community settings, not police venues, and should use locations that engage diverse sectors of the community, particularly those most subject to stop and search.
These locations should be chosen by the community.
• There is an intention to support involvement on these panels of the SSWG Youth
Engagement Coordinator and members of the SSWG Youth Council (not yet formed), this will facilitate
the partnership with those young people who are affected most by disproportionality.
• Build in the principle of coproduction into community engagement, creating systems that share power and decision-making between police and public.
• Through the Stop and Search Working group, appoint a Coordinator (see Job
Description) from the local community to reflect the concerns of impacted
communities and share all aspects of the role with the Police Coordinator. This would address concerns about the potential for bias in the design of the Panel and promote greater understanding of the process.
• Ensure it is linked to wider strategic oversight of Use of Powers and monitoring of
disproportionality in this and other areas Support the development of “reasonable grounds” guidance for officers.
• Identify trends and concerns for referral to the Stop and Search working group (tactical) /Use of Powers group (strategic) for development, investigation or resolution.
• Keep effective records to allow review.
A. Preparation: the panel coordinators (Police and Community) reviews all grounds recorded by officers and whether approved/unapproved by supervisors during a set period of time and identifies any that might be thought to fall short of the requirement for reasonable suspicion. The records are anonymised before they are presented to the panel.
B. Examine: the Panel examines all the grounds selected by the coordinator and
determines, through a vote, whether the requirement for reasonable grounds has been met (guidance/legal note produced for RGP panel members if this becomes relevant and necessary). If the Police or Community chair feel there is an issue or concern this will be referred to the Use of Powers lead for Stop and Search.
C. Respond: where grounds are deemed to be deficient, the response to grounds deemed deficient is based on an escalating scale of developmental support for both the searching officer and their supervisor:
D. Advise: Provide advice, feedback and guidance to the force Use of Powers lead via a covering report from the coordinators following the panel discuss.
The force has already produced guidance on reasonable grounds that HMIC described as “excellent”.
The RGP may decide to focus a RGP meeting on particular trends such as disproportionality or stops on the Black Community as part of its approach.
WHAT REMEDIAL ACTIONS ARE TAKEN BASED ON PANEL DECISIONS?
When the grounds recorded by officers are deemed not to have met the required legal standard, the searching officer and their supervisor are subject to an escalating process of professional development:
1) First Reasonable Grounds Panel identification: An email is sent to the searching officer explaining the Panel’s decision. It includes a link to officer guidance and offers training or input on request. If the supervisor did not address the issue before the search form was submitted, she or he also receives an email explaining the decision, referencing officer guidance and offering training or input on request.
2) Second Reasonable Grounds Panel identification within 12-months: An email is sent to the searching officer and supervisor, explaining the panel’s decision; both are assigned a coach to receive one-to-one input.
3) Third Reasonable Grounds Panel identification within 12-months: The searching officer is sent an email explaining the Panel’s decision and is asked to refrain from using their stop and search powers until they have completed a development plan. The supervisor receives a similar email, and is asked to refrain from conducting or supervising stop-search until a bespoke development plan has been completed. The third identification is noted in the officers’ Performance Development Reviews.
4) Fourth Reasonable Grounds Panel identification within 12-months: The officer is
referred to the strategic-lead for stop and search to discuss a range of possible
outcomes, including referral to the Professional Standards Department, depending on
the circumstances of the case.