A report obtained by the Press Association shows that out of 5,000 complaints relating to the Met’s use of stop and search use, investigators found that only 17 officers were deemed suitable for disciplinary proceedings.
The figures covered the period from 2014 to 2020.
The data shows that, despite the thousands of stop and searches which are carried out weekly across the capital, just over two complaints were made, on average during a 24-hour period.
Out of the 17 officers who faced disciplinary proceedings for the reporting period, only six allegations were proven, representing a figure of less than half of one per cent of the total number of complaints.
The Met said the disciplinary action figures, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act, related to breaches of Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace) 1984 – which governs the statutory powers officers have to search a person or a vehicle without making an arrest first.
A breakdown of the 5,000 complaint allegations relating to stop and search showed 748 of them were recorded as a breach of Code A between 2014 and 2020.
Cdr Jane Connors, Met lead for stop and search, said the force welcomed scrutiny and “drive for continual improvement”.
“We understand the impact that even a thoroughly professional encounter can have on an individual stopped and searched, and that its impact can resonate more widely with communities.
“We want to work with our communities to increase their trust and confidence in their policing service.”
Policing Analyst, Graham Wettone, told Emergency Services News:
‘There will always be room to improve but I would sooner focus on the positives.
‘Stop & search should be directed towards those committing crime or involved in crime. Its completely understandable that it will attract complaints because the majority of people dealt with do not want to be stopped or searched.
‘I have yet to hear a viable alternative to stop and search.
‘Many of those criticising it seem to believe that if someone is stopped in possession of an unlawful article then they comply and hand it over. The reality is very different.
‘Many of these complaints will be due to lack of knowledge or understanding by persons stopped.
‘The breaches by the officers are likely to be minor breaches of the guidelines & not actual offences. The key to stop & search is a professionally conducted interaction with effective communication by the officer.
‘The communication is often misunderstood or refuted by the individual being stopped. It is totally about preventing and detecting crime – nothing about age, gender or race’.
Talking about stop and search more generally, Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House told the Evening Standard:
“Every young person killed is a tragedy and we focus very strongly on youth gangs to try to prevent homicides. We constantly get thrown at us ‘your stop and search is disproportionate’ — of course our stop and search is disproportionate because we stop and search in areas of high crime and high violence.
“We don’t stop and search hundreds of people every day in Green Park and St James’s Park because they are not hotspots of violence. We do it where we know there are real problems with violence, with weapons, which is why every knife we seize in stop and search is potentially another life saved.
“We’re seizing something like 300 knives a month off the streets. It’s huge. People talk about disproportionate, ‘you are stopping young black men’. Young black men are dying on the streets of London and are being stabbed on the streets of London and, candidly, are also stabbing on the streets of London.
“The concern from the general public should not be that the police are stopping disproportionately, it should be are you stopping in a biased, racial way? Are you basing your stop and search on the fact that this person is black or basing it on the fact that this person is in a high-crime area and frankly young black men of this area are carrying knives or being stabbed by other people carrying knives?
“Of course our stopping and searching is disproportionate because if it was proportionate you’d be stopping the same number of people across every single community across London, from north to south to east to west, which is nonsense. We’d be stopping a high number of people in their eighties because there’s a lot of elderly people in London. We don’t do that. We don’t stop and search that many women because they don’t tend to be involved in street violence.”
Sir Stephen added: “I’m trying to decriminalise the word disproportionate. It’s focused. People pay us to be professionals and use our brains and focus our activity where the problem lies and we know that young black men are far more likely to be victims of knife crime and violence and homicide than their white counterparts. We are constantly reviewing our training with our officers to get it as professional as possible but we will be using stop and search because it’s a crime fighting tool and it saves lives.”
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