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Stop & Search: Listening and learning to improve our service

We’re listening to people in Birmingham who have been stopped and searched by our officers as we strive to improve the use of our powers.

Stop and search is a very important tool available to officers and has a role to play in our wider work tackling violent crime and make communities safer.

However, we understand being searched by a police officer could be a very uncomfortable experience.

We recently hosted an event in which people who’ve previously been stopped on the streets of Birmingham were invited to tell us about the experience.

Their feedback will be used as part of our police officer training programme and continual development in our use of stop and search powers.

Superintendent Ed Foster is our lead for Stop & Search. He said: "Our aim from this work is to improve that interaction so when the search has finished − whether something is found or not − the person felt they were listened to by the officer, spoken to fairly and understood why they were being searched.  

"We continually assess our stop and search data, review officers’ body-worn video and hold focus groups with independent scrutiny to monitor our use of stop and search. 

"But it’s important we also gather the experiences of people who’ve been stopped to help with our organisational learning. 

"We want to hear first-hand from them about the stop, how it was carried out, and how they feel the officers involved conducted the search. Their observations and feedback are crucial to help us improve our service to our communities."

Our officers carried out 11,064 stop and searches between 1 January and 30 May this year.

In most of these (73.1%) no weapons or drugs were found and the people subject to the stop were not arrested.

In just over a quarter of all stops (26.9%) there was what’s considered a ‘positive’ outcome, including 1,512 arrests and 266 knife recoveries.

Supt Foster added: "Our aim is to be a minimal force organisation. We are committed to ensuring any intrusive police powers, like stop and search, are utilised legally, fairly and no more than necessary. 

"And if a policing power is being used disproportionately on one group we must examine why that’s happening to ensure it’s not being exercised through a bias or discrimination."

The details of every stop and search is logged electronically and overseen by a supervisor.

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson said: "We’ve made some progress with stop and search, but there is always more we can do to improve and make sure it is more proportionate.

"This is another way in which we are engaging with communities and letting people have their say about how stop and search could be improved in the future.

"Stop and search should be intelligence led, in the West Midlands we have seen a reduction in its use in recent years, but seen success rates for finding weapons and drugs have increased.

"It is an intrusive power which can often be uncomfortable for those who are stopped by the police. I have made it a priority to ensure transparency in the use of stop and search which is why this new initiative is very much welcomed.

"Over the past few weeks stop and search has quite rightly come under increasing public scrutiny. I am committed to improving practice around the use of stop and search and this will form a key part of ambitions to tackle disproportionality in its use."

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