Scotland Yard has promised to publish details of every stop and search carried out in a bid to improve public confidence in the Met’s use of the powers.
In recent years there’s been growing concern that officers may be using stop powers without sufficient grounds, fears some claim are justified by the low levels of arrests arising from stops.
Official figures show young black men are more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts, raising further concerns that some officers are targeting specific communities without justification.
In 2011 80% of stops carried out in London resulted in no further action, a rate criticised by Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe when the took over the force.
Changes introduced by Sir Bernard, including a move to a more intelligence-led approach, have seen the number of stops carried out fall by a third while doubling the number of arrests resulting from them.
The force’s reforms were praised earlier this year by Home Secretary Theresa May who has warned that misusing stop powers “is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public” and “an unacceptable affront to justice.”
Today the Home Office has published new guidance on the use of stop powers which all forces in England and Wales, including the Met, have agreed to implement.
These include recording more details of stops, including the outcome, and requiring blanket stops – known as Section 60 stops – in an area to be authorised by a senior officer.
The Met says Section 60 stops will in future need to be approved by a Commander or above and that the period such stops can operate will be reduced from 24 hours to 15.
Commander Adrian Hanstock, MPS lead for stop and search, said: “In line with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme and our commitment to increase transparency and accountability, the MPS has today introduced a new approach to Section 60 authorisation and has introduced revised recording of stop and search outcomes.
“We recognise the impact stop and search can have on individuals and communities.
“Our work with communities and monitoring groups is helping to ensure we are more transparent than ever in how stop and search helps to reduce crime and keep people safe, but we of course recognise there is much more to do to improve confidence across all communities in the use of the powers.”
Joanne McCartney, Labour’s crime Spokesperson on the London Assembly, has welcomed the code of conduct which she says will “help to build confidence in the police with communities which are disproportionately likely to be targeted by Stop and Search.”
Ms McCartney, who is also chair of the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, added: “With 257,250 Stop and Searches conducted by the Met last year the public have the right to know that their use is both monitored and proportional.
“That is why the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee called for greater focus on training officers, transparency of reporting and feedback from Stop and Searches. I am glad the Home Secretary agrees.”
Green party London Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones also welcomed the Home Secretary’s reforms, but warned that they “do not take account of the fact that many people don’t make formal complaints against the police, especially young people.”
She added: “The alienation between the police and some communities has already happened. The police should be making the complaints process simple and meaningful so that people will have confidence in it.
“Young people should also be empowered to know their rights around stop and search. To his credit, the Met Commissioner has already done a good job in reducing the amount of section 60 stops.“