The use of stop and search continues to be one of the most controversial issues facing modern policing. Police use of stop and search has been found to disproportionally target those of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, with those of a Black background stopped 4.6 times more often, and those of an Asian background, 2.1 times more often than White people in Nottinghamshire during 2012.
In the past, attempts to examine this disproportionality merely scratched the surface and failed to appreciate the depth and extent of the tensions that exist between police and BME communities over this style of policing. This is changing and there is a lot of work both locally and nationally to delve deeper into these discrepancies and understand the reasons behind them while also seeking to promote fairer use of the powers.
Stop and search is just one in a whole list of police tactics yet its impact can be so very damaging to public confidence that we start to unravel any good engagement work and relationship building that has already taken place. With independently-elected Police and Crime Commissioners, we are beginning to see more positive relationships developing between our police forces and the communities they serve and people are starting to feel like they are being listened to.
PCCs are tackling issues of race and imbalance with some urgency in a bid to resolve conflict and restore confidence in the local community. For my own part, I’ve been focused from the outset on tackling disproportionality and redressing any perceived imbalances between the way police utilise their powers and engage with the BME community. In January last year, for example, I commissioned an independent research project which collated real experiences from Nottinghamshire’s BME community to enable me to understand how negative perceptions were damaging these relationships. The result of this has been eight specific recommendations
which focus on improving the way officers use stop and search tactics to build confidence in local policing. The Force now has, for example, a database which can identify where stop and searches take place, by which officer or team and who is stopped so that trends can be monitored and evaluated. A small working group is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the eight recommendations and I will be scrutinising performance very closely to ensure they fulfil our objectives.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) recognises that police use of stop and search powers can have a significant impact on public confidence in policing and this is reflected in the views of youth and BME groups in Nottinghamshire. I’m determined to remove these barriers and promote more cohesion and inclusion. This is why one of my Police and Crime Plan priorities is to deliver transparency and proportionality around stop and search.
We’re already making good progress in our pursuit of equality and fairness but it is clear that more needs to be done to fully reverse the injustices that many people within the BME community feel towards policing in the county and beyond, and I fully intend to do this.
Paddy Tipping is Nottinghamshire's first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). He was elected in November 2012 and will be in office until May 2016.
For more on race relations in the Nottinghamshire area, see Prof Cecile Wright's article Nottingham by numbers: The widening the racial disadvantage gap here on RaceCard.
Image Credit: Maja Kucova / Creative Commons