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Force having to re-look at ineffective s163 traffic stops pilot

The Met has confirmed that it is actively working with the Race Action Plan team on a commitment to record ethnicity of those stopped under s.163 despite having stopped the measure following a pilot last year.

The Met has said they are working with the Race Action Plan team on a commitment to record the ethnicity of those stopped under s.163. It follows a six month pilot last year which assessed the measure as not being an effective use of officer time.

The Race Action plan, currently under independent scrutiny, calls for all forces to record the ethnicity of those involved in traffic stops. 

In 2017, the NPCC ran a pilot implementing s.163 reporting requirements in five force areas; Northumbria, Cambridgeshire, West Yorkshire, Sussex and Surrey. Police Oracle understands that the results of the pilot have not yet been made available.

The Met's pilot had run between January and June 2021 for one week per month. It was launched following a request from the Mayor within his Action Plan on Transparency, Accountability and Trust in Policing.

Under the pilot, officers had to ask the driver of every vehicle stopped under s.163 to give their “self-defined ethnicity” and complete an e-form to record it. This was done in all cases regardless of the outcome of the stop.

In the final two months of the pilot, if no ethnicity was provided then an ‘officer-defined ethnicity’ was inputted instead.

A breakdown of the percentage of stops per ethnicity compared with the GLA population projection showed no great disparities.

For example, 16.5 per cent of the stops had drivers recorded as ‘Black’ – and they represent 13.5 per cent of the population.

In May and June of the pilot, the outcome of the stops was also recorded. That data showed slight differences – such as those from Dual Heritage backgrounds being less likely to be reported for a traffic offence and more likely to have no further action taken. However, the Met reported that there was insufficient data to draw conclusions.

The Met concluded: “The MPS has analysed the results and considered a range of factors […] This has been balanced against the impact on officer-public interactions, along with the cost and opportunity cost of officer time recording this data rather than carrying out other frontline policing duties to protect the public. Based on these considerations, the Met had not been planning to extend the pilot or to roll out more widely the recording of ethnicity in vehicle stops.”

Taking the two-minute standard time to complete the form, the Met calculated introducing such a measure would amass 4,271 officer hours each year.

90 per cent of officers who had completed a survey on the pilot said that the pilot added to their workload, and 14 per cent said the pilot made it less likely they would stop a vehicle.

Officers also said that in most cases they could not see who was driving the vehicle until it stopped and that some drivers resented being asked their ethnicity.

However, the Met said it would consider outputs from other forces piloting the method and has now said that it is actively working with the National Race Action plan team on the commitment to record ethnicity of the drivers stopped.

For the NPCC pilots in other forces Northamptonshire showed evidence of disproportionality under s.163.

Police Oracle understands that Bedfordshire and West Midlands have also been conducting pilots.

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