stop-and-search powers criticised by HMIC

Research on Stop and Search published summer 2013

On stop and search, here’s a summary of the three reports published during the summer of 2013:

  • The EHRC’s (2013) ‘Stop and think again’ built upon its earlier report ‘Stop and think’ (2010) which found that stop and search race disproportionality at the national level to be consistently high with variations within forces and some constantly featuring in the top 10. After publication, EHRC sought to take action against five forces.With Dorset and MPS, it decided to allow Next Steps to take its course to see its outcome put under scrutiny (p.12). WMP had proposed its own measures, including to abolish quantitative use of stops as a performance indicator, which EHRC also scrutinised. Finally, the EHRC agreed to enter into a voluntary agreement under S23 of Equality Act with Leics & TVP, instead of proceeding with legal action- which had a number of commitments for an 18 month programme of action including: a formal aim to reduce disproportionality, removing quantitative targets for stop and search, discussions with an IAG and each force designating an ACPO ranking officer to take charge (see p.13)EHRC concluded that a reduction in stop and search could go hand in hand with a reduction in crime rates and that this occurred under a number of conditions (p.39) including: strong leadership within police forces, holding to account the officers who used it the most, a clear target as an aim to reduce it by, reducing negative drugs searches and by eliminating it as a performance indicator. EHRC highlighted that its greater involvement in a police force resulted in greater progress and also warned that excessive use and disproportionality was the result of police tactics and not the condition of ethnic minority people. Finally, it ended by stating that it would continue to monitor the five forces and work with others where appropriate (p.40).


  • The HMIC’s Inspection of stop and search was published on 9th July 2013. This is a very good report and the HMIC promised to return to this issue within the next 18 months.As a summary of the inspection report: the HMIC inspected stop and search usage in all 43 police forces in England and Wales with a key focus on leadership and standards, legitimacy and fairness, and the ability to use it according to an evidence based approach. The HMIC expressed concerns over ‘worrying gaps’ at frontline supervision of those powers and the lack of effectiveness of its use. The inspection report highlighted how the reduction of ‘bureaucracy’ in policing had led to less knowledge about these powers than before because less information was being recorded. To address this, it called for the recording of whether the object of the search was found for which it argued was central to measuring effectiveness (p.38).The HMIC also stated that PCCs have a crucial role to play in scrutinising stop and search use (p.34).They concluded that “with a few exceptions, forces were not able to demonstrate an approach to using stop and search powers that was based upon a foundation of evidence of what works best to fight crime. A good example of this was that we found little evidence that police leaders were focusing stop and search activity towards priority crimes in their areas” (p.47). The inspection report seemed to be dismissive of powers that lacked reasonable suspicion as a general principle. The HMIC proposed 10 recommendations (pp.9-10) and said it would return to this to monitor progress within 18 months.