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Stop and Search

Use of stop and search

The purpose of stop and search is to help police officers prevent and detect crime, and avoid unnecessary arrests in circumstances where a search might eliminate an officer‘s suspicions.

There are 20 separate main statutory powers to stop and search but the vast majority of searches are conducted under Section 1 of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973. These powers require an officer to have ‘reasonable grounds to suspect’ that an individual has the prohibited item in their possession.

Stop and search is a controversial police power that is subject to intense political and public scrutiny and in 2014, the Home Office introduced the national Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme, a voluntary code of practice which all forces are encouraged to sign up to.

Click here for frequently asked questions about stop and search.

Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme

While stop and search is undoubtedly an important police power, when it is misused it can be counter-productive. It can be an enormous waste of police time and, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and public.

The Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme is designed to help reduce the overall use of stop and search, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios. It also aims to provide the public with further information on the outcome of searches.

By signing up to the scheme, Northamptonshire Police has committed to:

  • Increasing transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search and whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome
  • Restricting the use of Section 60 "no suspicion" powers. Already used only when necessary, under this scheme, the chief officer must make the decision whether to authorise the use of such powers. In cases where the chief officer anticipates serious violence, that officer must reasonably believe that violence "will" rather than "may" take place, as it stands now.
  • Giving members of the public the opportunity to observe stop and search in practice
  • Introducing a community complaints trigger

Find out more about the scheme by clicking here.

The impact of stop and search

It is important to measure the impact stop and search has on communities and individuals.

We plan to do this through effective community engagement and accountability.

We want every local policing area to have a community monitoring group or Independent Advisory Group (IAG) which scrutinises stop search performance and practice. The chairs of these groups will operate under the independent direction of the Office of Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

To ensure accountability, comprehensive monthly stop and search data is published here.

We also have a strategic stop search working group which includes representation from the force’s community engagement team, diversity, equality and human rights adviser, the Black Police Association and senior community leaders.

Northamptonshire Police is also represented at the national Police and Public Encounters Board, which influences and monitors national stop and search procedure and practice.

Engagement with young people

Engagement with young people is a key activity and we have dedicated community engagement officers. Stop and search is included in the force’s youth engagement activities and consultation can involve presentations, question and answer panels and role play. This brings young people together with local officers, helping to raise awareness about the impact of stop and search among the officers and to improve the confidence of young people in the police use of the power.

While Northamptonshire Police has crime reduction targets there are no individual numeric stop and search targets set for officers. The only objective relates to a positive interaction and outcome; doing the right thing the right way.

Having listened to our communities, Northamptonshire Police has set expectations for the types of crime that stop and search should be tackling. Our focus is on dealing with crimes that cause the people of Northamptonshire the most concern. This approach also provides flexibility to address specific local concerns.

Tell us what you think

We will continue to build upon the improvements already and will work with our communities and stakeholders to increase effectiveness and public confidence, improve the quality of the encounter and ensure stop and search continues to protect you.

Please let us know what you think, give your Feedback and work with us to ensure we continue to use stop and search powers to the satisfaction of the Northamptonshire public, to help create safest county in the country.

More Information

Central to BUSS is the stop and search mapping scheme.

This initiative allows the public to see exactly where this important power is used and what the outcome of every stop and search is. This means that people in the Northamptonshire force area can see details like the ethnicity and the age range of those who are stopped and searched. The information can be found here.

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