Police must show stop & search and use of force is fair or risk losing public trust
Police forces must explain the disproportionate use of police powers such as stop and search and use of force on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people or risk losing the trust of the communities they serve, a report published today has found.
Get the report
HMICFRS said that despite having more data on the use of force and stop and search, police forces are still unable to explain why these powers are used disproportionately based on ethnicity.
The inspectorate said that over 35 years since the introduction of stop and search, the police still cannot explain why these powers are used disproportionately. HMICFRS found that the most common reason given for the use of these powers is due to suspected drug possession. This unfairness risks further reducing public trust in the police and could lead to more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people being drawn into the criminal justice system.
As a result, the inspectorate is calling on police leaders to consider whether focusing stop and search on tackling drug possession is an effective use of these powers.
HMICFRS also called for police forces to analyse their data and either explain, with evidence, the reasons for disproportionality in stop and search and use of force, or take clear action to address it.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:
“The tragic killing of George Floyd in America in early 2020, and subsequent protests in the UK and globally, have highlighted once again the significant impact that police interaction can have – particularly on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, communities.
“The public rightly expects the police to protect them by using their powers in an effective and fair manner. Unfair use of powers can be counter-productive if it leads people to think it is acceptable to not comply with the law. It may also make people unwilling to report when they are the victim of crime or come forward as witnesses.
“Police forces must analyse their data and either explain, with evidence, the reasons for disproportionality, or take clear action to address it. The police must be able to show the public that their use of these powers is fair, lawful and appropriate, or they risk losing the trust of the communities they serve.
“We know that the proportion of stop and searches that actually find drugs is very low, and the disproportionate use of these powers on BAME people is having a damaging impact on public trust.
“We are therefore calling on police leaders to consider if focusing stop and search on drugs possession is an effective use of these powers, and to better explain the reasons for disproportionality. It is clear that now is the time to have an evidence-based national debate.”
Get the report
- This report is based on:
- Published national and force-level data on stop and search and on the use of force from 2019/20;
- The findings of HMICFRS’s 2018/19 Integrated PEEL Assessments covering police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy; and
- The results of a review of a representative sample of 9,378 stop and search records from 2019, which looked at the reasonableness and strength of recorded grounds, motivations for stop and search, and whether drugs searches involved a suspicion of possession or supply.
- Home Office data from 2019-20 shows that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people were over four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people – with the figure almost nine times higher for black people specifically. Black people were also over 5.5 times more likely to have force used on them than white people.
- Disproportionality refers to a group’s representation in a particular category that differs substantially from the representation of others in that category. In the context of this report, disproportionality indicates that the proportion of searches carried out on people of different ethnicities deviates from the proportion of those ethnic groups living in an area.
- For further information, HMICFRS’s Press Office can be contacted from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 07836 217729.
- HMICFRS’s out-of-hours Press Office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.