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New Stop and Search guidance for police to avoid unconscious bias

The College of Policing has published guidance for police on the use of stop and search. This has been published alongside an announcement that evidence-based training will be rolled out nationally for officers. The guidance acknowledges that children may be more likely to find the experience of stop and search traumatic.

Details

The guidance and training are intended to help officers recognise and challenge unconscious bias in relation to stop and search and give them the confidence to use their powers to stop and search legally, fairly and professionally.

The guidance is based largely on the provisions of the revised PACE Code A, alongside the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS) published by the Home Office and College of Policing and recommendations from reviews of stop and search carried out in recent years by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children.

A recent randomised trial of the training found that officers who were trained were less likely to support using racial or ethnic stereotypes. They also had greater knowledge of the law, were more likely to say they would act in line with the standards, but were no less likely to say they would intervene in situations.

Read the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice (APP) guidance on stop and search.

Read the College of Policing press release.

Commentary

The guidance makes specific reference to the potential consequences of using stop and search powers incorrectly on children: ‘Children may be more likely to find the experience of stop and search traumatic. This may have long-term effects on their perceptions of the police’.

It is also a reminder to the police, practitioners and other professionals that Code A of the PACE Codes of Practice makes specific reference to the duty to have regard for a child’s welfare:

‘The Children Act 2004, section 11, also requires chief police officers and other specified persons and bodies to ensure that in the discharge of their functions they have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of all persons under the age of 18′. [Code A para 1.1]