Understanding disproportionality with stop and searches in St Albans district
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Police in St Albans have been scrutinizing their use of stop and search powers.
St Albans Neighbourhood Inspector Andy Wiseman explained: “Stop and search is an important tool for police officers to confirm or allay suspicions that someone may be involved in a crime without using the power of arrest. We remain committed to ensuring stop and search powers are used lawfully and proportionately and only where there are reasonable grounds to do so.”
The in-depth report found that there were 609 stop searches - where someone can be searched without being arrested - within the St Albans district between April to October 2021. Of those, 52 were stop searches of black men and ethnic minority groups – which when compared to local population data meant that black males were 9.6 times more likely to be stopped and searched in that time period.
“We have been particularly keen to understand why there is disproportionality amongst black men being stopped and searched in the St Albans district. Crucially, the review hasn’t identified any indication of powers being used in a discriminatory way. The majority of searches were prompted by members of the public reporting suspicious activity to us.”
He said: “We have worked for many years to build strong relationships with black and other minority groups to help build trust among all communities that they will be treated fairly and without discrimination.”
Inspector Wiseman and his team have been working with the local Faith & Culture Enterprise (F.A.C.E.) Group and earlier this year, held a live question and answer event, in partnership with Oaklands College, where members of the public could call in and put questions to a panel of police officers. Billed as an opportunity to ‘stop and ask searching questions of the police’, the F.A.C.E. THE FUTURE event highlighted a number of key issues surrounding stop and search in St Albans. Learning from the event has been subsequently shared with frontline officers.
Individual officers are held accountable for their actions and as an additional protection measure, the Police and Crime Commissioner has a stop and search scrutiny panel that makes sure these powers are being used responsibly. Feedback and recommendations from these panels, is then shared with frontline officers.
The report (opens in a new window) (DOC, 2.4 MB) available on the Constabulary website, provides an in depth look at all of these searches, the reasons for them, the geographical locations, operational challenges at the time and the outcome rates.