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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Statement on HMICFRS report on the use of police powers

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has today, Friday 26 February, published a report on the disproportionate use of police powers, focusing on stop and search and use of force, available on their website.

Stop and search can play an important role in the detection and prevention of crime but we are mindful of the concerns of the communities we serve about the unfairness of disproportionate use of these powers.

We share the HMICFRS’ concerns about disproportionality affecting trust in policing, making people unwilling to report crime and reluctant to come forward as witnesses. We accept that people from minority communities have faced, and continue to face, discrimination in all areas of life and are determined that policing should no longer be one of them.

It is our ambition to be the most inclusive police service in the country and we are actively listening to our communities and working to tackle this issue in a number of ways.

We welcome today’s HMICFRS report, which sets out a number of recommendations for policing.

We are making positive use of Body Worn Video footage, as recommended in the report. It is now mandatory and officers must account for any failure to use it to record stop and search. It is now routinely used in around 95 per cent of interactions. There may be occasions where there is a failure in the equipment, but all stop searches are subjected to internal scrutiny if officers do not properly record their interaction.

We have also already increased the level of internal and independent scrutiny of our use of police powers, including stop and search.

The HMICFRS report recognises some of this work as positive practice, such as the introduction in 2017 of an independent Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel (SOPP) by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).

The panel is made up of local people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Each quarter these volunteers review stop searches and other police powers to ensure they are being used legitimately and to identify best practice and areas for improvement. Members are also involved in the police apprentice curriculum. Their scrutiny includes reviewing BWV and has a particular focus on the disproportionality that affects people from our black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities.

The panel ensures we are accountable publically for our actions, publishing its findings and recommendations. It’s not currently recruiting new members but you can find more information on its work and who is eligible to apply on the OPCC website

The Avon and Somerset Criminal Justice Board has also commissioned a review, following up on the Lammy Review, to examine the disproportionality faced by young black men and boys in the criminal justice system locally, focusing on prisons and probation, the judiciary, youth justice, out of court disposals, stop and search and HR/recruitment. The findings will be published this spring.

We believe that by creating a workforce which more accurately reflects the diverse communities of Avon and Somerset we will create a service which better understands our communities’ needs and works more closely in partnership with communities to keep everyone safe.

Our Outreach team is working to encourage people from under-represented groups to consider joining us. If you want to be a force for change, visit our jobs and volunteering section to find out more.