Home Secretary Amber Rudd writes about important reforms to stop and search powers and how progress has been made with its use.
The Home Secretary, writing alongside Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick in The Times, emphasises a shared conviction that powers must be used fairly and transparently, and that they should always be based on officers having reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary
As originally published by the Times on 9 August 2017.
When my predecessor as Home Secretary, the Prime Minister Theresa May, introduced significant changes in 2014 to the way the police stop and search members of the public, reform was long overdue.
The tactic had been badly used. The Government and the police had to recognise concerns that people from black and ethnic minority communities were being targeted disproportionately. Stop and search was damaging the relationship between the public and the police, and through that the trust on which our system of policing in this country fundamentally relies.
Effective use of stop and search is not about numbers – carrying out more or less; its purpose is simple: to take as many offensive weapons, knives, guns, acid and harmful drugs out of the pockets of criminals as possible. And yet, before the reforms took effect, of over one million stops taking place each year, fewer than one in ten ever led to an arrest.
The changes introduced three years ago ensure we now have more targeted, intelligence-led stops and much greater transparency and scrutiny.
Violent crime is down overall since 2010, and we know – because the independent Office for National Statistics tells us – that much of the increase in the latest police-recorded crime statistics was due to better recording by the police. Good work has been done, but we must not lose sight of the fact that in some areas there are signs of a genuine rise in gun and knife crime. That is not something I will shy away from.
The increase has caused some people to question whether police need to return to a time when stop and search powers were used much more widely in a less targeted and more indiscriminate way. That would be a backward step.
Since the reforms, the number of stop and searches has come down by almost two-thirds while latest figures show that the stop to arrest rate is now the highest on record. In London, the proportion of stops which result in an arrest has doubled since 2009/10. Police are targeting the right suspects better than ever before.
I want to be crystal clear, we have given the police the powers they need, and officers who use stop and search appropriately, with reasonable grounds and in a targeted and intelligence-led way, will always have my full support. This includes using stop and search to confront the use of acid as an appalling weapon of violence. It is a vital tool to keep the public safe, and officers who use the power correctly should have the full support of the public and their commanding officers.
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