Concerns over Yorkshire police force's 'stop and search' scrutiny

A Government police watchdog has raised concerns about the way stop and search powers are recorded by one of the region's forces.

Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:05 am
HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham.

North Yorkshire Police (NYP) requires improvement for how it treats all of the people it serves with fairness and respect, according to the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.

As part of its annual inspections into police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL), the watchdog assesses all the forces across England and Wales.

Reports released today look into police legitimacy – how fairly and respectfully the forces treat those they serve, whether they behave ethically and lawfully and how they treat their workforces.

All four of Yorkshire’s forces received “good” ratings overall – the second highest ranking – though the watchdog highlighted one area for improvement each in North and South Yorkshire (SYP).

NYP has been told it needs to improve how it treats all of the people it serves with fairness and respect.

The report details how the watchdog’s review of 200 of the force’s stop and search records “indicate that some officers and supervisors either still do not understand fully what constitutes reasonable grounds, or do not know how to record them properly”.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham said: “One area of concern is that the force does not have robust processes in place to scrutinise its use of stop and search powers. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed.”

NYP Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward said: “The findings of the report again showed that our officers and staff behave ethically and lawfully in line with the Code of Ethics, which is embedded in the way we work on a daily basis.

“It is also shows that North Yorkshire Police cares for the wellbeing of its officers and staff and treats them fairly and with respect.

“We have, however, carefully noted the feedback about treating all the people we serve with fairness and respect, as well as introducing greater external scrutiny and more robust processes in the way we manage stop and search powers. The PEEL inspections are designed to improve policing and we fully take on board the recommendations.”

The area’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, said: “There were a number of areas highlighted for improvement, many of which I have been raising with the Chief Constable for some time now, and I am keen to see improvements as soon as possible.”

The report states that 4,418 stop and search procedures (excluding vehicle only searches) were carried out across the force area in 2015.

SYP needs to improve on how much “fairness and respect” its workforce is shown, according to the watchdog, with “the way it prioritises and communicates matters of wellbeing” highlighted as an area to better.

A force spokesperson said progress had already been made and “we are committed to doing all we can to support our people in delivering the best possible service to the public of South Yorkshire”.

Nationally, the analysis suggested that police are less likely to find illegal substances on black people than white individuals when carrying out stop and searches for drugs.

The watchdog said this was “troubling” and “suggests that the use of stop and search on black people might be based on weaker grounds for suspicion than its use on white people, particularly in respect of drugs.”