Stop and Search, National recommendations - April 2022
In 2020, we launched our thematic work on race discrimination, which enables us to independently investigate cases which would not ordinarily meet our threshold for investigation. Taking a thematic approach helps us to build the necessary body of evidence to drive real improvements in police practice by identifying both good practice and systemic issues, and in 2020 we used this approach to shape 11 formal learning recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) following the study of five investigations featuring the use of stop and search.
In 2022, we published a report taking the next step on from that work, looking at learning that could be shared at a national level.
Our thematic recommendations and responses can be found below.
Recommendation 1: to the National Police Chiefs' Council and College of Policing
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC and College of Policing work together to develop guidelines on how to safeguard people from a Black, Asian, or other minority ethnic background from being stopped and searched because of decision-making impacted by intelligence based upon assumptions, stereotypes, and racial bias, and mitigate the risks of discrimination.
The College’s Stop and Search Authorised Professional Practice (APP) and paragraph 2.2B of PACE Code A (2015) which are already in place set out the legal position and contain significant narrative relating to bias and discrimination, stating officers cannot use personal factors as the reason for stopping an individual.
However, taking into account evidence provided in the IOPC’s report, the APP will be revisited to ensure continued relevance by considering making reference to relevant information and intelligence more explicit. Also, it should make clear that stereotypes and bias should not be utilised. It is expected that this would:
Assist officers to form grounds for stops that are objectively reasonable given the information available; and
Provide a framework to describe factors contributing to an officer genuinely suspecting they would find the item sought.
Further, it is considered important that those preparing problem profiles and similar products from the intelligence community also receive inputs and training around unconscious bias and stereotyping and this is refreshed regularly.
Recommendation 2: to the Home Office
The IOPC recommends that the Home Office review what constitutes reasonable grounds for suspicion for cannabis possession. The review should consider whether smell of cannabis alone provides reasonable grounds for a stop and search and whether any changes are required to PACE Code A.
The Government fully supports the police in the fair, proportionate and lawful use of stop and search to fight crime and protect communities. Our approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs. We recognise the IOPC’s concerns that there is a perception these grounds are resulting in disproportionate use of stop and search powers against black individuals. We remain clear that no one should be subject to the use of stop and search on the basis of their race or ethnicity, and safeguards exist to ensure that does not happen, including extensive data collection, the use of body worn video and statutory guidance to increase transparency and accountability.
PACE Code A, the statutory guidance covering the police’s use of stop and search, states that reasonable grounds for suspicion must relate to the likelihood that the object in question will be found. It also says that, in the absence of specific intelligence or information, reasonable grounds may exist on the basis of someone’s behaviour, and that searches are more likely to be effective and legitimate when their grounds are based on multiple objective factors
The College of Policing provides Authorised Professional Practice (APP) to police officers on their use of stop and search. This is clear that it is not good practice for an officer to base their grounds for search on a single factor, such as the smell of cannabis alone. We are aware from our engagement with forces of a variety of approaches taken to use of the smell of cannabis as sole grounds for stop and search, from adherence to the APP’s best practice guidance to an outright ban on the use of smell of cannabis alone to justify stop and search. The Metropolitan Police Service, for example, has had such a ban in place since 2013.
In 2017 the College of Policing conducted research into the link between officers using the smell of cannabis as grounds for a stop and the criminal justice outcomes of the search. They concluded that behavioural factors played a more prominent role than the smell of cannabis in officers’ decisions to search for cannabis, but searches based on the smell of cannabis by officers made no difference to the criminal justice outcomes compared to other searches on different grounds.
Given the strength of guidance available to forces on this question, we feel it best to trust operationally independent Chief Constables and democratically elected PCCs to determine how stop and search should be used in their force area. We continue to keep this under review and engage with a wide range of stakeholders to develop policy.
Recommendation 3: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC takes steps to support forces to reduce their officers’ reliance on the smell of cannabis alone when deciding to stop and search someone and instead use grounds based upon multiple objective factors relating to that specific individual.
Best practice is available on what constitutes objectively strong and proportionate grounds for search in situations involving suspected cannabis; and has been addressed by the delivery of national continual professional development (CPD), on 3rd December 2021, to force tactical leads. This included the smell of cannabis and it included subjective and objective factors as well as the impact on outcomes. This was also shared with forces through the NPCC Stop and Search Knowledge Hub collaboration space. Also, the above APP has already been updated relating to both cannabis aroma and grounds for stop and search, which makes it clear smell alone is not good practice, i.e. having this as a single factor for justification.
Recommendation 4: to the National Police Chiefs' Council and College of Policing
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC and College of Policing review the effectiveness and application of GOWISELY and consider whether its use is resulting in professional stops and searches where the person understands the reasons for an officer’s actions before starting the search.
Under PACE Code A, officers have a lawful requirement to maximise a subject’s understanding prior to commencing a search and must explain the points required by law. In order to support this as an aide memoire, GOWISELY has been adopted by the police for several years and is well understood by both police and the public.
NPCC and the College accepts that if an individual understands the reasons for an officer’s action, they are more likely to accept these and not consider the encounter as arbitrary or unfair. Several forces have commenced work on expanding the requirements as set out in law to also include voluntary procedural justice (PJ) elements.
Building on this, the College and NPCC are working with these forces to test the effectiveness of using a Procedural Justice framework to assess officers’ interactions beyond lawful requirements; and ensure proper understanding of the grounds for the search and the extent to which it can be undertaken.
Recommendation 5: to the National Police Chiefs' Council and College of Policing
The IOPC recommends that NPCC and College of Policing supports Chief Officers to implement the College of Policing’s national training on communication skills and use of de-escalation during stops and searches.
The first iteration of the recently published joint NPCC/College of Policing Police Race Action Plan includes specific points which address this recommendation. As part of the commitment of Chief Constables to identify and address disproportionality in the use of force through robust accountability and learning processes based on scrutiny and supervision, including:
Training and CPD in legitimate use of stop and search, decision making and communication;
Effective de-escalation training; and
Community involvement in scrutiny of the use of force.
In addition, the College of Policing has developed a new two day Personal Safety Training curriculum which seeks to address issues around de-escalation through a full rollout to forces - this has already commenced in some forces and is due for completion by late 2023.
Recommendation 6: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to consider the steps that can be taken in their force to ensure all officers understand that they have an obligation to challenge inappropriate behaviours that may occur during a stop and search encounter. This should include situations where officers have insufficient grounds, where decision-making may have been influenced by biases, where communication has been inappropriate or excessive force has been used.
Steps that will be considered to address this recommendation may include:
A review of the Code of Ethics;
Measures within the Race Action Plan to reduce victimisation;
Support for officers through their CPD activity;
Supervisors providing officers with feedback on the quality of stop and search encounters they have conducted; and
Measures contained in the wider police professionalisation agenda.
Recommendation 7: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to take steps to ensure that officers in their force understand their obligation to end encounters once their suspicion has been allayed, in a manner that minimises impact and dissatisfaction, unless there are further genuine and reasonable grounds for continued suspicion.
There is an existing requirement within PACE Code A on officers to end stop and search encounters which is consistent with this recommendation. Further work will be undertaken to understand support required by forces to ensure their officers comply with this.
Recommendation 8: to the National Police Chiefs' Council and College of Policing
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC and College of Policing work together to develop guidelines on how to safeguard people from a Black, Asian, or other minority ethnic background from experiencing disproportionate use of force during stops and searches due to stereotypical assumptions and biases affecting the policing response.
In conjunction with key stakeholders, the College has undertaken a review of the current Stop and Search in order to provide more detailed guidance on the use of handcuffs during encounters. As a result, the content was expanded to include explanations on how officers should engage with a suspect to achieve cooperation prior to any consideration of the use of handcuffs (which should be a last resort). If they are used, considerations on which an officer should base their decision are explained, along with further information on reporting the use of force, as well as consideration of the ongoing application of handcuffs.
More generally, the Race Action Plan states the College of Policing will review the National Decision Model to ensure officers are equipped to consider cultural impact and trauma when considering powers, including use of force, as part of their decision making processes An aide memoire table, based on the National Decision Model (NDM) to support officers’ decision making in these circumstances will also be included in APP guidance.
Recommendation 9: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to take steps to ensure that within their force, officers exercising stop and search powers are not using force, in particular handcuffs, as a matter of routine, and are only escalating to a forcible search where the person resists or makes it clear they are unwilling to cooperate.
Revised guidance on handcuffing is contained within the updated stop and search APP; and NPCC will ascertain what additional support forces require. The new Annual Data Return (ADR) request in relation to use of force used during a stop and search and monitoring this as it relates to handcuffing will assist in understanding when force is being used. Other measures for consideration to address this include future national CPD activity.
Recommendation 10: to the Home Office
The IOPC recommends that the Home Office agree an approach to recording data about the protected characteristics of individuals having other policing powers (such as S.163 and use of force) used on them at the same time as being stopped and searched. The approach should form part of existing recording protocols and should include reports on the links between the ethnicity of the individual and their exposure to stop and search, use of force and vehicle stops.
The Home Office is continually looking to better understand disparities in stop and search and share this publicly in the interests of transparency. For the first time in 2021 we gathered incident-level data including information on both age and gender of those stopped to accompany our longstanding data collection of ethnicity, and we are also able to display specifically where and when searches are taking place. We publish this information annually in our Police Powers and Procedures statistical bulletin. This additional data allows us to create a clearer picture on how stop and search is used and how best to build on the existing trust and confidence held between the police and the community they serve.
The Home Office has published data on wider police use of force since December 2018. Statistics include a breakdown by type of force, reason for force, outcome, injuries, and subject information such as age, gender and ethnicity.
We collect data according to what is proportionate and relevant to stop and search, focusing on those areas where we have good reason to believe disparities in use of the power exist.
Recommendation 11: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that once a standardised process for recording data on the protected characteristics of individuals having policing other powers used on them (such as S.163 and use of force) at the same time as being stopped and searched has been agreed, the NPCC provides support to police forces to implement it in their local area.
As per recommendations 5 and 6, the Police Race Action Plan includes commitments by both the College and NPCC that will address this recommendation. Chief Constables will adopt an agreed national approach for recording, analysing,
supervising and scrutinising police powers (e.g. s.163 RTA 1988, s.60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1963 stop searches and use of force). This is intended to enable the identification of, and taking action to, eliminate racial disparities at force and individual levels. Measures to achieve this ambition are:
NPCC and the College will develop and set a national approach, process and guidance.
NPCC will drive implementation of the approach and pilot an ADR or use of s.163 RTA.
The College will develop a Code of Practice to put the national approach as stated in the Race Action Plan on a statutory basis, thereby improving policing for Black people.
NPCC will support forces by providing a mechanism to be able to proactively identify and rectify racist behaviours and bias in interactions with Black people when officers are using their powers.
Forces will adopt an agreed consistent methodology for publishing data and implement processes to effectively scrutinise this information.
This recommendation was also accepted by National Lead for Roads Policing Chief Constable Jo Shiner.
Recommendation 12: to the Home Office
The IOPC recommends that the Home Office agree an approach to recording data on the use of Section 163 powers. Data should include the grounds upon which a vehicle was stopped, the characteristics of the occupants, and any outcomes resulting from the stop.
Under section 163 (s.163) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the driver of a vehicle is required to stop for an officer in uniform when requested to do so. The police may wish to stop a vehicle and speak to the driver for a number of reasons, including insurance or MOT.
We are aware of concerns about a perceived disproportionality in the exercise of s.163 Road Traffic Act powers. Currently there is no requirement to collect data on the use of this power as we believed that this would make the interaction longer, more formal and create an additional burden on law enforcement in recording this information We are also aware that a number of police forces, including the Metropolitan Police Service, have undertaken a piloted collection of this data.
Any final decision on introducing a requirement to collect data on the use of s.163 would benefit from considering the findings of these pilots, alongside consultation with the NPCC to explore the practicalities of the data collection.
Separate response from NPCC/ CoP on 16 June 2022:
Chief Constables, via the Police Race Action Plan, will develop a framework to implement recording vehicle stops under s.163 RTA and encourage other stakeholders in the motoring and insurance industry to supply relevant data. As such information is collated, its impact on Black people will be considered; and any apparent disparities subjected to challenge and implementation of learning processes based on scrutiny and supervision. Such processes will include training and CPD covering legitimate use of s.163, decision making and communication skills. In order to achieve this ambition:
• Working with the College, NPCC will develop a consistent approach on recording use of s.163 powers by all forces and review previous force level pilots on collection of this data.
• NPCC and the College will consider data, identifying and challenging any apparent disproportionality.
• NPCC will implement a trial for inclusion of s.163 monitoring within the ADR.
• NPCC will monitor the effect of activity in recorded disparities identified with national and force data.
• NPCC will commit to adopt a publication scheme on an annual basis.
This recommendation was also accepted by National Lead for Roads Policing Chief Constable Jo Shiner.
Recommendation 13: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to take steps to ensure that officers are following the College of Policing’s stop and search APP and using their body worn video to capture all relevant information in the time leading up to the person being detained for a search, the conduct of the search itself and the subsequent conclusion of the encounter.
The national lead for BWV, DCC Jim Colwell has confirmed that such points will be included, where appropriate, within national guidance which is due to be ratified and planned for publication in October 2022. The BWV Portfolio is already engaged with the Home Office and IOPC on development and implementation of this recommendation.
Also, these actions are reflected in Workstream 2, Action 7 of the Police Race Action Plan, which states:
‘The NPCC lead for BWV will define operational parameters that ensure consistent national usage by police officers and staff. This will deliver enhanced confidence in police legitimacy, providing a mechanism to proactively identify and rectify racist behaviours and bias in interactions with the Black people when using powers. To achieve this ambition:
The NPCC lead on BWV will make a policy decision defining the usage of BWV within policing activities.
The College will determine guidance on the use of BWV in an operational context.
The NPCC will produce guidance around scrutiny and monitoring of BWV relating to quality assurance of encounters.
Forces will implement the NPCC guidance for use and scrutiny of BWV.
The NPCC will monitor compliance in use of BWV operational guidance.
The NPCC will explore use of further technology in monitoring encounters and when applying power’.
Recommendation 14: to the National Police Chiefs' Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to take steps to ensure that the structures they have in place facilitate appropriate monitoring and supervision of the use of stop and search powers, and that supervisors are allowed the time and are sufficiently trained to perform their supervisory duties.
Chief constables will identify and address disproportionality in the use of stop and search, particularly in relation to drugs and the searches of children. This will be achieved by having robust accountability and learning processes based on scrutiny and supervision, including training and CPD in legitimate use, decision making and communication, effective de-escalation training and community involvement in scrutiny of stop and search powers. Specific actions:
The College will review current activity within forces piloting the use of procedural justice approaches by supervisors, with assessment considering the identification of trends, the impact on officer behaviour, communication and empathy.
The College and NPCC leads will work with forces to establish a procedural values approach for supervision that goes beyond assessment of lawful activity, focusing on the fairness and respect in the use of police powers.
The College will deliver revised APP and appropriate amendments to the national training curriculum ensuring to include supervisor training.
(Further to the response to recommendations 13 above and 16 below), NPCC and the College will develop toolkits for the supervision and scrutiny of BWV of stop and search.
NPCC and the College will work with the Home Office to develop a national approach for the scrutiny of stop and search.
Forces will implement the national approach for scrutiny of stop and search.
NPCC will advocate for mandated levels of supervision in a national approach for scrutiny of stop and search, s.60 CJPOA searches and searches involving intimate places on the body.
Forces will carry out an audit of training provision in place for supervisors.
Forces will carry out a self-assessment as to whether they are complying with APP re: monitoring and supervision and provide feedback on its suitability to the College.
It is recognised there are particular challenges with regard to s.60 CJPOA searches, therefore as per the Police Race Action Plan, Chief constables will identify and address disproportionality in use of s.60 CJPOA and its impact on communities, by having robust accountability and learning processes based on scrutiny and supervision. This will include: Training and CPD in legitimate use; decision making and communication; managing the intelligence-led use of these powers and its effectiveness in dealing with serious violence; and community involvement in the scrutiny of s.60 usage. To achieve this:
Forces will commence local scrutiny and monitoring of s.60 CJPOA authorisations.
Forces will carry out an audit of training provision in place for Sec 60.
Forces will carry out a self-assessment as to whether they are complying with APP and provide feedback on its suitability to the College.
Recommendation 15: to the NPCC
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to work with local policing bodies to implement the principles of the College of Policing’s APP on community oversight in relation to stop and search.
Joint response from NPCC and CoP:
Within the ‘Involved’ strand of the outcome framework in the Police Race Action Plan which aims to ensure the police service routinely involves Black people in its governance, there is a commitment to ensuring this takes place proactively and as a matter of course in oversight and scrutiny processes. This will be achieved by:
The NPCC will work with the APCC and communities to review existing engagement channels such as (Independent Advisory Groups and Scrutiny Panels) to identify ways of further strengthening the voice and influence of communities in policing governance.
The College of Policing will build the evidence base on effective community engagement and share it with forces including piloting and evaluating different approaches for engagement.
Work will be undertaken to define a national data framework to support community confidence mapping by forces.
Forces will map community confidence; produce local action plans to support community engagement; and publish outcomes of their engagement.
Forces will self-assess their ability to deliver on the priorities
Forces will produce an action plan for addressing actions and implementing the learning from the engagements.
NPCC will review and monitor implementation of self-assessments/action plans.
Recommendation 16: to the National Police Chief’s Council and College of Policing
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC and College of Policing work with the Information Commissioner’s Office to enhance APP on the sharing of stop and search information with external scrutiny and oversight groups, in particular body worn video footage, to bring about greater consistency and transparency.
Joint response from NPCC and CoP:
The College and NPCC have also made commitments within the Police Race Action Plan to address this recommendation. The national lead for BWV will define operational parameters that ensure consistent use of these devices by officers and staff. This is intended to deliver enhanced confidence in police legitimacy and provide a mechanism to proactively identify racist behaviours and bias when police use their powers during interactions with Black people. Specific measures that will be taken forward are (also referenced in the response to recommendation 13 above):
The NPCC national lead for BWV will make a policy decision to define BWV use within policing activities; and the College will determine guidance on its use in an operational context. DCC Colwell is already engaged with the Home Office and IOPC on development and implementation of this recommendations.
NPCC will produce guidance on the scrutiny and monitoring of BWV relating to quality assurance of encounters.
Forces will implement both sets of guidance referred to above.
NPCC will monitor compliance in use of the BWV operational guidance.
NPCC will explore use of further technology for monitoring encounters and the application of powers.
Whilst some forces already have arrangements in place to the standard required by their regional Information Commissioner Offices, these are currently not accepted at a national level. Therefore, NPCC and the College will engage with the Information Commissioner to understand what would be required to embed this within a nationally agreed framework. As a minimum, it is anticipated this would involve accepting locally agreed frameworks on a national basis; and at most this could be a national scrutiny framework agreed by the Home Office, with a view to changes to Pace Code A or a new Code of Practice.
Recommendation 17: to the National Police Chief’s Council
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC supports Chief Officers to work with local policing bodies to implement the enhanced APP on the sharing of information with external scrutiny and oversight groups, to bring about consistency and transparency.
Joint response from the NPCC and CoP:
However, this recommendation cannot be completed until recommendation 16 is completed.
Recommendation 18: to the National Police Chiefs' Council, College of Policing and Home Office
The IOPC recommends that the NPCC, College of Policing and Home Office explore the feasibility of commissioning research into the trauma caused predominantly to people from a Black, Asian, or other minority ethnic background, including children and young people, by the use of stop and search.
The College of Policing has secured funding from NPCC to carry out a national survey exploring young people’s experiences of police-initiated contact, including stop and search. The College plans to use this survey, in part, to explore the extent to which trauma results from police contact; and the impact that any trauma has. The work is at a very early stage of development but is expected to be commissioned later in 2022.
The following action in the Police Race Action Plan, not specifically focused on stop and search, will contribute to addressing trauma more generally:
Using the output from a rapid evidence review by the College, the Community Engagement workstream will co-design pilots with the National Black Police Association, external partners and Black communities that aim to improve relations, acknowledge and reconcile previous harms, and engage seldomly heard voices from Black communities.
On 4 July 2022, the Home Office responded with the below:
In reference to recommendation 18 our response has been returned as part of the NPCC return on this recommendation as this was a joint recommendation from your side.