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PCC to commission research into Stop and Search

Hertfordshire PCC David Lloyd is currently inviting proposals for a six month research project into Stop and Search disproportionality within the force area.

The project will focus on whether the necessary data is collected to explain disproportionality and then make recommendations if there are findings that cannot be explained. 

PCC David Lloyd said: "I believe the crude way in which we currently measure disproportionality is highly misleading and not useful in indicating whether discriminatory behaviour may be taking place, or its extent.  If we really want to find out whether there is disproportionality we need to invest in some detailed research."

Police Oracle spoke with Sara Miles, the Criminal Justice Policy and Research Manager at Hertfordshire OPCC. 

She explained: “How we measure disproportionality can feel quite crude, particularly when we are trying to compare to the 2011 census data. 

“The IC 6+1 code doesn’t quite marry up when we look at the census data [...] the IC 6+1 codes for example don’t have a code for mixed ethnicity. 

“Often we look at disproportionality specifically against ethnicity - we don't necessarily map it against age or gender or the type of stop - is it S.23 or S.1, and even under S.23 is it mainly possession of cannabis rather than posession with intent, for example?

“Also when you say stops are intelligence-led - is that from intel briefings or is that member of public reports? [You can develop that further to consider] if there is any conscious or unconscious bias in the way the member of the public has reported something?” 

Last week, a report into disproportionality within stop and search in St Albans was published. It found that there were 609 stop searches between April and October last year, 52 of which were of black men and ethnic minority groups. When population data was taken into consideration, it showed that black males were 9.6 times more likely to be stopped and searched. 

Neighbourhood Inspector Andy Wiseman said: “We have been particularly keen to understand why there is disproportionality amongst black men being stopped and searched in the St Albans district. Crucially, the review hasn’t identified any indication of powers being used in a discriminatory way. The majority of searches were prompted by members of the public reporting suspicious activity to us.”

Ms Miles added: “We're not asking whether there is disproportionality because we know there is [...] the question we’re trying to understand is is there a legitimate explanation for that disproportionality?

“At the moment we have lots of different little bits of reasons why things could happen. And maybe they are all the reasons and they just all add up to this picture. Or maybe there's lots more going on there.” 

Currently, minutes from stop and search scrutiny panels are routintely uploaded online, and sergeants are also invited to observe and take an active part in panel meetings - including challenging thoughts they don’t agree with, and contributing operational information. 

Feedback from the meetings is given to inspectors and sergeants who then filter that down to their teams. 

“We're not just trying to find something that’s not there. I think we'd all ideally like to do the research and find that, yes, we noticed disproportionality, but we can explain it legitimately,” she said. 

The OPCC is looking close applications by the end of August and get the project underway by the end of September. 

The Constabulary has agreed to share data with the researcher for the purposes of the project.

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