Police are to launch a second internal campaign to encourage officers to conduct more ‘stop and search’ checks on the streets of South Yorkshire because the practice has fallen into decline.
Searching people has been a recognised policing tool for many years but has been controversial at times, with accusations that it could be misused by officers and that some sections of society have been far more likely to be targeted than others.
Back in the old South Yorkshire Police Authority regime, work was done to try to establish why stop and search patterns developed as they did and to improve the recording of incidents to help ensure officers were accountable for their actions.
Stop and search checks have been thrown back into focus with issues such as knife crime emerging on the national agenda and an internal campaign called See, Know, Suspect was launched late last year to set out the framework for officers to use when conducting such checks.
Now the force is to conduct a follow up campaign to further encourage officers to use the powers.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson said he had been approached by mothers who were keen to see officers to act because they were concerned for the safety of young men in their communities.
“If you are stopping and searching in one part of the city with a predominance of ethnic minorities and then compare it with the city as a whole, you will get a discrepancy,” he said.
“You have built that into the methodology and I think the methodology is flawed.
“I have had mothers in Burngreave approach me to say they didn’t understand it.
“They didn’t want their children harmed with knives. Exactly the same thing has happened in London.”
Over a six month period, ending in February, police recorded ‘positive outcomes’ for 23 per cent of the stop and search checks they conducted.
That was similar to the period preceding it.
A report to South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, by an independent ethics panel, said: “The number of occasions on which stop and search is now used however is considerably lower than a few years ago.
“A protocol for the best use of stop and search has been introduced by the Home Office.”
The panel has previously supported the policy of providing additional guidance to increase officers’ confidence in performing stop and searches.
The report added: “The panel noted that black and minority ethnic citizens continue to be subject to a higher number of stops and searches than would be expected from their proportion of the South Yorkshire population.”
However, BAME citizens are also more likely to be the victims of violent crime.