I might not be the world’s greatest expert on the finer points of PACE but I do like to think that I know a little bit about practical coppering, and I don’t mean bending the rules.
After the recent Mark Duggan Inquest it may come as no surprise to hear that our beloved Home Secretary, or Cruella as I prefer to call her, is once again considering ‘tinkering’ (can I say that?) with Stop and Search Powers.
As you sit with your coffee and donut reading this, every single Police Officer that is on duty in England and Wales, and probably Scotland and Northern Ireland also, is fully accountable for everything they do. Believe it or not Mr Winsor they are highly trained, and, yes, literate, professionals. Professionals that have had a huge amount of money invested in them, training them to be fit for purpose.
Every time there is a furore concerning Stop and Search the government of the day tries to appease the disaffected population by promising to do something about those naughty Police Officers and their over-zealous use of Stop and Search.
Well, I don’t expect turkeys to vote for Christmas, but neither do I expect my politicians to tell me that I can’t eat turkey at Christmas, or any other time of year, if I want to.
The guidelines about when a Police Officer can Stop and Search someone are contained within Code Of Practice A of PACE, which you can read here if you’re suitably bored.
The Met has gone even further and produced its own lovely colour coded document entitled
What the hell is wrong with that? The officers are accountable for it. I am in NO WAY suggesting that officers do or should Stop/Search with impunity, but why oh why would you want to set the them ONE Target – Reduce Crime, and then start tying their hands behind their backs when violent crime and crimes against property are on the rise again (#Crimestats permitting).
If any given section of the community complains about the voracious use of Stop and Search it is absolutely pointless, nay counter-productive, for our politicians to try and appease that section of the community by curbing Police use of Stop and Search. What they should be doing is assuring ALL SECTIONS OF THE COMMUNITY EQUALLY that Police Stop and Search powers will be used appropriately, proportionately and lawfully, as and when, and where, they are needed. The officers conducting these Stop/Searches are individually accountable, and in the event that a s60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 order is issued then an officer of higher rank has to be in a position to justify this decision, in addition to the officer conducting the Stop/Search.
The illustrious IPCC have outlined their position on Stop/Search here. It should be noted that they are not saying “Don’t do it”.
I have discussed Stop/Search with several people over the last 48 hours and we almost unanimously agree that if the actions are lawful and reasonable most people will be happy with Police actions if the reasons are adequately explained to them. One of my Twitter friends described his experiences of Stop and Search as “either ending with a handshake or an arrest” which I think tells a success story. If no arrest was made the person stopped went off relatively happy with Police action once it was explained or they got nicked. What is wrong with that?
Before I leave this thorny subject, there is one more element to it that should be discussed. Is it appropriate to use Stop/Search as a Performance Indicator?
When I first joined the Met in the early 70s there was a book, Book 90 (Pre PACE) that contained hand written details of all Stops. Those that had resulted in an arrest were entered in red. This became one of the best-read books in the nick. Firstly because your mates wanted to know who was where in the very unofficial League Table and the Management wanted to know who was doing what when it came to AQR (Appraisal) time. The end result of this was, end of month, the Phone Book came out, or a trip through the local cemetery, collecting names for ‘Stops’ to keep the Chief Superintendent happy.
Was this right? Probably not, but it hurt no-one.
I have been hearing tales this week of Stop/Searches being used as a modern day Performance Indicator and compared against those for neighbouring Boroughs/OCUs. Can this be right? Most definitely not, and I’m sure the ECHR (and HASC/PASC) would have something to say if they heard about that practice. Code A states the grounds for Stop/Search and last time I read it I found no reference to Performance Indicator. Any Stop/Search carried out to keep the Chief Superintendent happy at your appraisal is almost certainly unlawful, unprofessional and far more likely to antagonise the local populace than a targeted Stop/Search in an area of high crime followed by a suitable explanation and apology for the inconvenience. Yes, that’s right, I said Apology. Modern day Police Officers should not be reluctant to apologise for inconveniencing a member of the public. If their actions are reasonable, properly explained and an apology offered, I’m reasonably certain that most law-abiding citizens will walk off more than happy, reassured that you’re actually doing something about crime in their area.
When I went through Henditz to do my Initial Training it included repeated use of the mantra “Never apologise, you’re not sorry”. Well we don’t live in such macho times any more, we’re much more pink and fluffy. Apology is good, as long as it’s genuine and appropriate.
If the non law-abiding citizens are less than happy with your actions will I get excited about that? No. Treat them with the respect they deserve, offer them the same explanation and apology and if they’re still not happy I really don’t see why our politicians should be pandering to them and offering to ‘curb’ the use of Stop and Search like what Cruella has suggested.
Finally, I give you this, Stop & Search to be replaced by Slap n’ Tickle, I’m pretty sure it’s a spoof, but in this day and age who knows?