The latest figures show that the Metropolitan Police Force has received almost 5,000 complaints in relation to the use of stop and search since 2014.
Despite this, only six Met Police officers have been disciplined over its misuse. This number has steadily increased over the years, from 786 complaints in 2019 to over 1,700 in 2020. Incredibly, of the around 990 cases that were recorded in 2020, the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards did not investigate even one of these complaints.
There has been some minor action taken, but it has never been enough to encourage better conduct in relation to stop and search from authorities. According to records, only around 17 Met officers have been given stop and search disciplinary proceedings since 2014. Of the said cases, only six were proven. Of the six officers, four received only management advice while the two others were given a warning - one was a written warning and the other a final written warning.
In May last year, the CJA (Criminal Justice Alliance), which has around 160 organisations as members, called for a revocation of the stop and search laws. The alliance saw the increase in complaints in England and Wales as alarming. They alleged that innocent people were being stopped and searched year after year.
Despite these figures, the Metropolitan Police’s stop and search lead said that the practice is needed because it helps keep the community safe. He claims it protects people from lethal weapons. The commander did mention that they welcomed scrutiny because it is crucial for continuous improvement.
The force also assured the general population that their officers are well-trained and know how to facilitate stop and search encounters professionally. Additionally, they expressed their desire to connect with communities to help build trust and confidence in the Met.
What is a stop and search?
A stop and search is a power given to the police to stop and search someone if they have reason to believe that the person is carrying or in possession of a prohibited weapon or were involved in a criminal activity. Police officers can search anything the individual is carrying, including the clothes they are wearing.
The police can also stop and search a member of the public if there is proof that a serious crime or violence can take place in an area. Stop and search may also be used if there are threats of terrorism.
The stop and search practice is a policing tool intended to help in preventing crimes. When used properly, honestly, and appropriately, it stops criminals from causing harm to the community.
Stop and search procedures can only be performed by police officers.
When is a stop and search lawful?
A stop and search is only effective, fair, and lawful if:
- The search can stand up to public scrutiny
- The individual concerned is told and understands why they were searched
- The individual concerned is treated fairly and with respect
- The officer has a genuine reason to suspect that a prohibited item used for criminal activities is in possession of the individual
- The search was the necessary and appropriate action for the police officer to determine if the person has any prohibited item on them
The Metropolitan Police can stop and search you in public places. You will be asked to remove your gloves and coat and jacket only. When there is evidence that you are involved in terrorist activity and hiding your identity using clothes, the police may ask you to remove more than just your gloves and jacket. Before they can do this, however, they have to move you away from the public. You won’t be arrested, though. In such cases, the police officer performing the stop and search must be someone of the same sex as you are, especially if there is a need to do a strip search.
Minors who are stopped and searched are not allowed to be subjected to a strip search without an adult present.
If you are inside a vehicle, you can still be stopped and searched. The police officer will ask you to show your driving licence and other documents. They also have the right to search your vehicle if there is a reason to, specifically if there is suspicion that you are keeping:
- Stolen goods
The stop and search of your vehicle can be done at any time providing that the police officer has determined a reasonable ground to do so. If you are not around, the officer is required to leave a note informing you of what they did. If the police did not find anything that connects you to criminal activity and the search caused damage to your vehicle, you are entitled to compensation.
Lastly, before they can be searched, the police officer should inform you that you are being detained so they can search you (or your vehicle). They also have to inform you what law they are enforcing, as well as details like name and station they belong to, reason/s for the search, and what they are searching for. You should also be provided with a form containing information about the stop and search, including the reassurance that you are to use to collect the item/s from the police.
Filing a Stop and Search Complaint
If you believe you have been wrongfully stopped and searched, or unlawfully detained, you may be able to get an official apology from the police force. Not only this, you can potentially claim compensation for any injuries, time spent off work, or damage to property.
ClaimExperts.co.uk have an expert panel of Actions Against the Police solicitors who can help you with Stop and Search compensation claims and can tell you whether you are eligible or not. Get in touch today to find out if you can claim.
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