In a presentation given to the Nottingham Action Group (NAG) on Wednesday 26th November, Inspector Simon Allardice, Neighbourhood Policing Officer, outlined the way Nottinghamshire Police use their Stop and Search powers.
The presentation raised issues of public awareness and controversies in Stop and Search powers, that the Nottingham Police force are addressing with changes to the power.
Nationally there have been many sensational stories of Stop and Search being used unlawfully, but Inspector Allardice claims that the media have created misconceptions and that Stop and Search powers in Nottingham are used infrequently and often very successfully.
“Stop and Search powers should be used to deter, disrupt and detect criminal activity”
Stop and Search is used, in Inspector Allardice’s words, to “deter, disrupt and detect criminal activity” and “must always be used lawfully”. When questioned, he believed that Nottingham were the second or third lowest users of Stop and Search powers nationally.
The issue of public engagement was raised and highlighted the ways in which the public, including students at the two universities in Nottingham, can access information on Stop and Search data. Furthermore, Inspector Allardice outlined the ways in which the powers have been changed to improve the use of Stop and Search.
“The Blackberry app is allowing easier mapping of areas where Stop and Search occurs”
In the years 2013/14 there were 5522 instances of Stop and Search in the Nottingham area. 20.4 percent of these were of a ‘positive outcome’ meaning that the article the officer was searching for was found. Inspector Allardice indicated that these figures are improving year on year.
Nottinghamshire Police are focusing particularly on reducing violence, especially involving weapons, and theft crimes such as burglary. Inspector Allardice hoped that Stop and Search can be a ‘tactical intervention’ to reduce and prevent crime.
The force has signed up to the ‘Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme’, which makes them more accountable to the Home Office and to the public.
“Allowing the public access to this kind of information is important”
The scheme encourages the force to be more transparent with their data, and they are one of two forces in the country working on a Blackberry app pilot scheme with the Home Office.
The use of a “Blackberry app is allowing easier mapping, through GPS co-ordinating, of areas where Stop and Search occurs”, Inspector Allardice told the NAG.
This allows for the police force to publish data on areas where Stop and Search is most frequent, for the public to be made aware of the data in their local area.
“An understanding of the areas Stop and Search is most frequently used helps the local community engage with the Police”
A second year physics student at the University of Nottingham said: “allowing the public access to this kind of information is important.
“It allows for an understanding of the areas Stop and Search is most frequently used so the local community can engage with the Police to establish why this is”, they continued.
Changes to the way in which Stop and Search is conducted has led to improvements in its use, according to the Inspector. Officers are trained in their legal obligations, behaviour and approach methods in order to reduce the misconduct of Stop and Search.
18.2 percent of people subjected to Stop and Search in 2013/14 were of black or minority ethnicity
Moreover, specific targeting of areas, likely to be frequented by individuals known to the Police, is used for a more strategically approach to Stop and Search.
However, there is still a clear ethnic disproportion in the data Impact was shown. 18.2 percent of people subjected to Stop and Search in 2013/14 were of black or minority ethnicity. Considering these ethnic groups only make up 28.5 percent of Nottingham’s population, this is still relatively high, although it has been falling year on year.
“We receive very few complaints of Stop and Search – only about 4 or 5 annually’
Assurances were made, however, that the Police are ensuring that officers misusing Stop and Search are being held accountable. A scrutiny panel, made up of members of the public, are able to question senior members of the Constabulary on any possible misconduct that comes to light.
The Inspector told Impact that “there are very few complaints of Stop and Search” with only ‘about 4 or 5 annually’. He continued that this may be due to the lack of public engagement or trust in the Police, which is why the force are pushing to become more transparent on the issue.
Students are reminded that they are welcome to attend any NAG meetings. For more information, email Mike Olatokun, SU Community Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Stop and Search in Nottinghamshire, go to www.nottinghamshire.police.uk/stopandsearch
Image: Nottinghamshire Police