At 12pm today (1 February 2012) Commander Tony Eastaugh of the Metropolitan Police participated in a live webchat about the Met’s use of ‘stop and search’ powers.
He stated that, while the police’s powers to stop and search people were not being taken away or reduced, the Met intend to now use them in a more focussed way. In particular they plan to target ‘violent people’, although he did not define such people or provide examples.
In addition, he said that the Met would be seeking to reduce the number of ‘section 60’ searches, which is a stop and search power given to the police in response to violence. This power is widely used by the police and has advantages to the officers who apply it when conducting a stop and search as, unlike with a standard stop and search, they are not required to give reasons. The authority to use s.60 comes from a superintendent or an inspector, which means that the officer conducting the search can simply defer to their superiors. Interestingly though, Commander Eastaugh said that he would expect officers using s.60 to explain their reasons ‘out of courtesy’.
While I applaud the Met’s efforts to target stop and search more appropriately, the police have a long way to go to convince people from black or minority communities in particular that they are not being targeted. It remains a sad fact that you are four times more likely to be stopped and searched in London if you are black or from a minority community. To resolve that issue the police are going to have to show tangible results on wider issues such as race relations rather than simply targeting their use of one power; stop and search. If they fail to do so, more claims for actions against the police will inevitably follow.