Herts Police will change key elements of its stop and search powers from today.
The force has joined its counterparts across the country in signing up to the voluntary ‘best use of stop and search’ scheme, announced by Home Secretary Theresa May back in April.
The county constabulary is one of only 24 forces to implement additional data recording and ‘no suspicion’ measures from today, with a commitment to implement all aspects of the new scheme by November.
According to the police, stop and search is an important police power, but can be counter-productive when misused and can be ‘hugely damaging’ to the relationship between the police and public when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason.
The Home Secretary’s new 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, as well as provide the public with further information on the outcome of searches.
Herts Police primary changes include increasing transparency by recording all outcomes of stop and search, identifying whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome, and restricting the use of Section 60 “no suspicion” powers.
Though these powers are already used only when necessary, under the 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.
By November, the force will fully comply with the scheme by giving members of the public the opportunity to observe stop and search in practice and introducing a community complaints trigger.
Herts Chief Constable Andy Bliss said: “The Constabulary is fully committed to the best use of stop and search scheme and supportive of what it seeks to achieve.
“This is the first step in a raft of measures under scheme that will be rolled out over the coming months. The scheme will ensure that stop and search powers are used effectively in Hertfordshire whilst building and maintaining public confidence in the way the powers are used.”
Ms May said: “Nobody wins when stop and search is misused, it can be an enormous waste of police time and damage the relationship between the public and police.
“That is why I am delighted Hertfordshire Constabulary will from today reform their use of stop and search powers under the new Best Use of Stop and Search scheme.
“It will increase transparency, give us a better understanding of how stop and search is actually being used and help local communities hold the police to account for their use of the powers.”
From today, stop and search data will be available on data.police.uk. The additional information which forces will capture as a result of the Scheme will be published on the site in due course.