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Call for Parliament to review whether S.163 road stops 'are necessary'

Alison Lowe, who is West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for crime and policing says the IOPC report is a “crucial step in the right direction”.

“I am a black woman, I have been stopped many times, my family have been stopped and other black people I know have been stopped,” she told Police Oracle. 

Alison Lowe was appointed deputy mayor of West Yorkshire for Policing and Crime in May last year. She is also Joint Chair of the APCC Race Disparity Working Group, 

She had previously been Chair of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel for five years. She also served as a Leeds city councillor, representing the Armley ward between 1990 and 2019. 

Speaking to Police Oracle about the recommendations set out by the IOPC on stop and search, she said: “I use my lived experience to have an authentic and honest conversation, not as a stick to beat the police. I know that my experience is not about all police officers or all police staff.

“Me being stopped was sometimes legitimate [...] but I have had a couple of other very negative experiences, where I know that race was a factor. 

“I'm using that as an opportunity for training, development and shining a light on this is how it made me feel, so that the leadership can understand the long term impact of that.”

From the data Alison Lowe receives as lead on risk disparities with the APCC, she said that progress around reducing those disparities is “slow”, and has welcomed the recommendations, saying that she was “not surprised”  by the findings. 

One of the key parts that stood out to her in the IOPC report was the recommendation on recording data on Section 163 vehicle stops. 

There is currently no obligation set out by legislation to record the use of S.163. 

In 2017, West Yorkshire was one of five forces who took part in a pilot whereby certain data was recorded for S.163 vehicle stops. Along with Northumbria, Cambridgeshire, Sussex and Surrey, the force was required to report on the ethnicity of those stopped, their age, the reason for the stop, the outcome and any link between reason and outcome. 

The NPCC is still collating the evaluation of these pilots and will include it within the Race Action Plan due to be launched in June. 

Northamptonshire has previously run a similar pilot, the results of which showed evidence of disproportionality. 

The Met, Bedfordshire and West Midlands are currently piloting the recording of S.163 vehicle stops. 

“I think it’s really important that S.163 doesn’t become a back door route into race disparity,” Alison Lowe said. 

“If you’re trying to build those relationships back up and you don't know [the data on officers using S.163], everything that you’re doing could be compromised.” 

“I’d like Parliament to review S.163, to see whether or not we actually still need it. The purpose of S.163 is to see whether the driver has an MOT, has insurance. You can do all that remotely now. 

"I'm not saying it's not necessary but that question hasn't been asked, the the arguments for and against haven't been had. 

“Without that legitimacy, without policing by consent, the work of the police is so much more dangerous.

“At the very least, we need to be routinely, and it should be mandatory, collecting the data on S.163 road traffic stops.” 

Some of the IOPC’s stop and search recommendations lean on guidance which is already in place, for example with the use of body worn footage. 

IOPC lead on discrimination Sal Naseem said: “Despite the fact that the guidance is there, which says that it should be on, [it’s still not always used correctly] which is why we're having to make the recommendation.

“[With body worn footage for example] what we're seeing examples of batteries not being charged, equipment being faulty, a range of excuses being given for why it's not being used or only partially used. 

“I think what you speak to here is about culture. And we often speak about culture, [...] and culture is the hardest thing to change.” 

For Alison Lowe, it’s a question of leadership. 

“It’s a huge ask that we’re asking our forces to undertake, to keep us safe with the resources that they’ve got,” she said. 

“I think what we need to do when chief constables are deploying on resources is to not skimp on the management, do not skimp on the supervisory arrangements because they are the key to quality. 

“It’s a really big job that we’re asking officers to do and the supervision of staff is so important.”

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