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In January 2012, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) launched a major and renewed focus on stop and search to make it more effective and fair. Since then, there has been significant reductions in the volumes of searches carried out, increased arrest rates and reduced complaints.
We know we have a strong public mandate for its continued use. Since December 2012, the well established Public Attitude Survey has asked over 55,000 Londoners for their views on stop and search. Over 12,000 people were canvassed over the past 12 months and the results show 74% are in favour of the MPS’ use of stop and search and 73% are confident it is used fairly. In 2015, a survey of London's schoolchildren revealed 58% believe stop and search makes them feel safe.
Asking individuals to account for their presence or behaviour is an important part of everyday policing. Stop and search is an additional and legitimate power that is used by the MPS to protect Londoners, tackle crime and keep our streets safe.
In the financial year 2015/16, 29,959 arrests were made as a result of stop and search, this includes 3,530 arrests for possessing weapons. This represents 13% of all arrests made by the MPS and displays what a vital crime fighting tool it is and how it protects Londoners by taking weapons off the streets. However, we do not underestimate the impact stop and search has on communities and individuals. We know that to maintain public confidence in its use, the power must be used in a fair and effective manner.
The MPS believes a stop and search is most likely to be fair and effective when:
- the search is justified, lawful and stands up to public scrutiny
- the officer has genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion they will find a prohibited article or item for use in crime
- the person understands why they have been searched and feels that they have been treated with respect
- the search was necessary and was the most proportionate method the police officer could use to establish whether the person has such an item
Since January 2012, stop and searches have fallen by 70% and Section 60 authorities have fallen by 98%. Of the people who were stopped and searched in 2015, 45% were white, 37% black and 14% Asian. Males account for over 90% of all stop and searches. Public complaints arising from stop and search have reduced by 60%.
It is important to measure the impact stop and search has on communities and individuals. This is done through both community engagement and community accountability assisted by the comprehensive stop and search data that is published monthly on the MPS website.
The MPS engages with a variety of stakeholders including the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Black Police Association, community leaders and young people. The MPS are key members of the National Police Chiefs Council stop and search improvement group which influences national procedure and practice.
London boroughs have local Community Monitoring Groups which scrutinise performance and practice. The chairs of these groups meet quarterly in the form of the Community Monitoring Network which operates under the independent direction of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
To further demonstrate our commitment to fairness, the MPS continues to record stop and account, unlike the majority of other forces. In 2016, just under 90,000 people were stopped and asked to account for themselves. 64% were white, 20% black and 12% Asian.
There is disparity in the use of stop and search in relation to gender, age and race. The reasons for disparity are complex and include the use of the power to tackle gangs and specific crimes. All measures of proportionality are subjective depending on which population base is employed. No population base will ever accurately capture a street population or offender profile in a given area, at a given time.
The primary purpose of stop and search is to enable officers to either allay or confirm their suspicions about an individual without having to arrest them. Effectiveness must therefore reflect where suspicion has been allayed and an unnecessary arrest, which is more intrusive, has been avoided; or where suspicion has been confirmed and the object is found or a relevant crime is detected.
Presently 32%, almost one in three of all searches, result in the officer's suspicion being confirmed and an illegal object found or a relevant crime detected. There is no racial disparity in effectiveness as the outcome rate from searches of Asian, Black and White people is consistent. Whilst the MPS has corporate targets for crime reduction, there are no individual numeric stop and search targets set for officers. The MPS aims for 20% of all stop and searches to result in an arrest. The arrest rate has risen from 8% in 2011 to 20% in December 2016, the best of any major force in England and Wales.
Having listened to community representatives and reference groups, the MPS expects stop and search to focus on dealing with crimes that cause Londoners the most concern. We expect a minimum of 20% of all stop and searches should target weapons and 40% should target neighbourhood crimes. This approach also provides flexibility to address specific local concerns.
We will continue to build upon the improvements already made. We have adopted the Home Office 'Best Use of Stop and Search' scheme and taken action to implement the recommendations from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary reports 2013 & 2015 and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children report 2014. See Related Publications for details of our progress against the recommendations and specific related data.
We will continue to work with our communities and stakeholders to deliver fair and effective encounters and ensure that stop and search continues to protect Londoners.
Position statements and action plan
Position statements have been developed in relation to specific aspects of stop and search. Download the documents for further information on: