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Stop and search remains a hugely important police power for protecting Londoners, tackling crime and keeping our streets safe. It is an invaluable tool - especially in relation to tackling knife crime; resulting in over 3000 arrests for weapon possession and for taking several thousand weapons off the streets of London each year.
Stop and search must be used in a fair and effective way that supports public confidence and is independently scrutinised. Over the past few years we have changed the way we use stop and search, it is now used far less and is much more effective, complaints have reduced by over 60 per cent.
We recognise the increase in knife crime and continue to make a concerted effort with operations such as Teal and Sceptre to tackle this. The aims of these operations are to remove knives from circulation and target habitual knife carriers. This includes the use of intelligence led stop and search, where it is an appropriate tactic, in areas with high levels of knife crime and gang violence.
The primary purpose of stop and search is to enable officers to either allay or confirm their suspicions about an individual without having to arrest them. Effectiveness must therefore reflect where suspicion has been allayed and an unnecessary arrest, which is more intrusive, has been avoided; or where suspicion has been confirmed and the object is found or a relevant crime is detected.
In the financial year 2015/16, 29,959 arrests were made as a result of stop and search; this includes 3,530 arrests for possessing weapons. This represents 13 per cent of all arrests made by the Met and displays what a vital crime fighting tool it is and how it protects Londoners by taking weapons off the streets. However, we do not underestimate the impact stop and search has on communities and individuals. We know that to maintain public confidence in its use, the power must be used in a fair and effective manner
Controlled drugs are a concern of many local communities and are often linked to anti-social behaviour. The positive outcome rates from drug searches is 33 per cent which is slightly higher than the 31.6 per cent overall positive outcome rate from all searches. 22 per cent of weapons arrests from searches come from drug searches.
There is disparity in the use of stop and search in relation to gender, age and race. The reasons for disparity are complex and include the use of the power to tackle gangs and specific crimes. All measures of proportionality are subjective depending on which population base is employed. No population base will ever accurately capture a street population or offender profile in a given area, at a given time. In 2016, 42 per cent of people who were stopped and searched were white, 40 per cent were black and 14 per cent Asian.
Presently 32 per cent, almost one in three of all searches, result in the officer's suspicion being confirmed and an illegal object found or a relevant crime detected. There is no racial disparity in effectiveness as the outcome rate from searches of Asian, black and white people is consistent. There are no individual numeric stop and search targets set for officers. The arrest rate has risen from 8 per cent in 2011 to 20 per cent in December 2016, the best of any major force in England and Wales.
In a survey conducted by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in 2015 of 9,492 school children in London, aged 11 to 18-years, 58 per cent of them believed stop and search make them feel safer.
Body Worn Video is being rolled out across the Met and will help to reassure Londoners that their interactions with the police are recorded. The technology offers greater transparency for those in front of the camera as well as behind it. The cameras will allow the Met to demonstrate the professionalism of officers, gather evidence and demonstrate their professionalism in the face of many challenges involved in policing the Capital.
The Met believes a stop and search is most likely to be fair and effective when:
- the search is justified, lawful and stands up to public scrutiny
- the officer has genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion they will find a prohibited article or item for use in crime
- the person understands why they have been searched and feels that they have been treated with respect
- the search was necessary and was the most proportionate method the police officer could use to establish whether the person has such an item
The Commissioner supports the use of stop and search in a fair and effective way that enhances public confidence and is independently scrutinised.
We will continue to work with our communities and stakeholders to improve the quality of interactions and ensure that stop and search continues to protect Londoners.
Position statements and action plan
Position statements have been developed in relation to specific aspects of stop and search. Download the documents for further information on: