Police seize 11,000 knives, guns and weapons off the streets in a year

Police seized 11,000 knives, guns and weapons off the streets in a year as stop and searches reached a seven-year high leading to 73,000 arrests

  • Home Office reports 558,973 stop and searches carried out in the year to March
  • Powers allow police to search people and vehicles for items without a warrant
  • Separate review by IOPC shows failings in Met Police’s use of stop and search 
  • It found officers often failed to use bodycam video from the outset of interaction

Police have seized 11,000 knives, firearms and weapons off the streets of England and Wales in one year as stop and searches reached a seven-year high.

The Home Office said there were 558,973 stop and searches carried out in the year to March under section one of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Pace).

Usage of the powers, allowing police to search people and vehicles for items such as drugs or a weapon without a warrant, led to 73,423 arrests – just 13 per cent.

It was the highest number of stops and searches since 2013/14 when there were 872,518, but still below the peak in 2010/11 of 1,179,746, the report said. 

It comes as a highly critical review of the Metropolitan Police’s use of stop and search revealed officers stopped two black men after they were seen ‘fist bumping’. 

Police use their stop and search powers during the Notting Hill Carnival in West London in 2017

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘In 2019-20, stop and search removed over 11,000 knives, firearms and other weapons from our streets and resulted in over 74,000 arrests.’

Meanwhile a review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into the ‘fist bump’ incident revealed the officers thought the pair had just completed a drug deal, in one of a number of issues raised by the watchdog.

It found handcuffs were used in nearly all instances where other tactics could have de-escalated an encounter, while officers also failed to use bodycam video from the outset of their interaction with some members of the public.  

Several of these investigations found although an initial search was negative, officers were slow in ending the encounter.

 

A photograph from March 2019 of Metropolitan Police officers carrying out a stop and search

The IOPC said their review ‘mirrors concerns,’ already raised by communities in the Capital. 

Regional director Sal Naseem said: ‘We saw a lack of understanding from officers about why their actions were perceived to be discriminatory.

‘We recommended the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) takes steps to ensure that assumptions, stereotypes and bias (conscious or unconscious) are not informing or affecting their officers’ decision-making on stop and search.’

The IOPC has now recommended 11 ways the Met Police can improve its use of stop and search powers.

The increase in stop and searches was larger for white people this year (with an increase of 95,562 to 280,661) than for black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds people (who saw an increase of 55,215 searches to 185,401)

The watchdog’s recommendations include offering better education of powers to officers, improving monitoring from above, ensuring racial prejudice is removed and making sure the stop and search encounter is ended swiftly after suspicion is allayed.  

Separately, Home Office data revealed the increase in stop and searches was larger for white people this year (with an increase of 95,562 to 280,661) than for black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds people (who saw an increase of 55,215 searches to 185,401). 

But BAME people were stopped at a rate of 4.1 times higher than those who were white, a similar rate to the previous year (4.3), the report added. 

And the rate of black people who were stopped and search per 1,000 of the population was at its highest since 2014 at 54, compared with 35 in 2014.

The most people to be arrested from stop and searches per 1,000 of the population were in Humberside and the least were in Surrey

This is the highest number of stops and searches since 2013/14 (872,518), but still below the peak in 2010/11 (1,179,746), the report said.

It is also an increase of 193,419 (53%) compared to the 2018/19, when 365,554 searches were recorded.

Mr Naseem added: ‘The review highlights the need for the Met to reflect on the impact this kind of decision-making is having.

‘There is also a need to better support officers on the front line to do their jobs effectively with the right training and supervision so they aren’t subjected to further complaints and investigation. There is clearly much room for improvement.’

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