Dorset Police welcomes updated stop and search guidance

30 July 2020

Dorset Police has welcomed updated stop and search guidance published today by the College of Policing.

The updated guidance outlines ways in which community oversight and independent scrutiny can be used effectively in the context of stop and search which can then inform changes to local policies, procedures and practices.

It also gives guidance to forces about how independent panels should be comprised, stating that they should be representative and purposeful with powers being scrutinised by those communities most affected. The full guidance can be found here.

Like all forces in England & Wales, Dorset Police uses stop and search as a legitimate way to maintain law and order.

Chief Constable James Vaughan said: “We welcome the new guidance and will review it against our existing plans.

“We have very robust consultation and engagement mechanisms already including an independent scrutiny panel set up by the Police and Crime Commissioner in 2017 to ensure that our use of stop and search is fair and held to account. The panel review grounds, outcomes and samples of the body worn video available of stop searches. The response from the panel is that the activity of our police officers is proportionate and justified.

“We will ensure that any additional scrutiny such as a focus on disproportionality supplements our existing channels and provides a specific focus where it is needed. We have always worked hard to ensure that our communities and residents feel supported and protected by our officers and staff and we will continue learning lessons to improve the service we offer, especially to vulnerable communities and those who suffer prejudice and racism in their everyday lives.”

In 2019 Dorset Police undertook a review of how it uses stop and search, alongside an independent review commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner. The Force has been implementing recommendations of these reviews, including strict supervisory reviews of each stop and search along with unconscious bias training for staff. It has also introduced a stop and search board chaired by Dorset’s Deputy Chief Constable David Lewis to ensure it is progressive in the use of the tactic.

Chief Constable Vaughan continued: “We will continue to work with partners such as the Dorset Race Equality Council and Prejudice Free Dorset to engage and consult with our communities ensuring we build on the work already done. The Force is also working closely with academics and the HMIC to better understand this important area.”

“Stop and search, used properly, can be a valuable tool in dealing with criminal behavior, helping us deal with many offences, from possession of controlled substances to burglary. However, anyone subject to stop and search will know that it can be an unsettling experience, which only magnifies the upset felt by those who feel they have been stopped without reason or because of bias. We understand that and have been working to make sure our use of stop and search is appropriate and justified.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “I welcome the College of Policing’s guidance, particularly as my office runs an independent panel, made up of members of the public, to scrutinise the Force’s use of stop and search.

“It is important that our panel members develop an understanding of the legislation, training and other issues surrounding the use of this power, and so – while the panel remains fully independent from the Force – it has regular input from officers who are able to provide crucial background information.

“We also try to recruit from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the public who give up their time to sit on this panel and to welcome new members who have recently joined it.”

Stop & Search Panel reports from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner can be found here

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