Police make changes to stop and search

POLICE chiefs have outlined a raft of actions in a bid to improve stop-and-search procedures following claims that Suffolk’s force is “institutionally racist”.

Bosses strongly denied the accusation and have now agreed a number of measures in a bid to tackle the issue.

The Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) claimed last week that Suffolk Constabulary was “institutionally racist”.

It followed a report showing people from a black or ethnic minority background accounted for 9.1% of all stop and searches carried out between July 2009 and 2010 – even though they only make up 5.6% of the population.

At a meeting on Friday, Suffolk Police Authority’s monitoring and audit committee agreed a raft of measures in a bid to drive improvements.

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Actions include the continued close scrutiny of stop, search and encounter figures on a quarterly basis – a process which will continue to be shared with ISCRE – the continued implementation and monitoring of a constabulary action plan created to address this area of work, and enhanced training of frontline and managerial staff in issues relating to stop, search and encounter, diversity and communication.

They also vowed to explore further opportunities for dialogue with ISCRE and other community groups.

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Assistant Chief Constable Stewart Gull told the meeting: “Significant improvement has been made in relation to stop, search and encounter, with a reduction in the number of people being stopped and searched across the county achieved in the last year.

“Alongside this, the percentage of those who have been arrested as a result of being stopped and searched has increased, demonstrating that our approach is now more targeted and intelligence-led.

“We are far from complacent, however, and we recognise the disparity that exists between the number of searches made of white and of black and minority ethnic groups is not acceptable.”

Joanna Spicer, chairman of the monitoring and audit committee, said she was extremely grateful to members of ISCRE for attending the meeting.

“The monitoring and audit committee will follow up on the actions agreed with the constabulary, and will regularly monitor this area to ensure that improvements are made and that lessons are learned from the input we have received,” she said.

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