SANDWELL: MP hits back at reduced stop and search
MP for West Bromwich East
An MP has hit back at plans to ‘cut back’ stop and search powers as part of a move to make policing in the region more inclusive.
It comes after Simon Foster, West Midlands police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), questioned the use of stop and search and warned it was damaging confidence in policing among black and Asian communities.
In his new crime plan for 2021-25, published on November 2, the Labour politician pledged to increase the rate of ‘positive outcomes’ and to reduce ‘ethnic disproportionality’ in how the powers are used.
Mr Foster’s document suggested that some of the searches currently carried out by West Midlands Police may be unlawful.
It said police needed ‘reasonable grounds’ to stop and search someone, adding: “If searches are based on a reasonable suspicion of finding something or some other action following, then at least half would need to generate a positive outcome.”
But only 25 to 30 per cent of searches lead to something found, the document said.
It continued: “Thus, if searches are only leading to an action in about a quarter of cases, then it is legitimate to ask if the ‘reasonable grounds’ threshold for a lawful search has been met in connection with many of the searches that take place.”
“Clearly, there is a demonstratable need to empower officers to use stop and search where appropriate, rather than undermine these powers.”
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the MP said: “I am always shocked and to be frank – upset when I have been shown some of the weapons that have been found in our town.
“And they have been carried by people of all ages, sometimes disturbingly young.
“It’s in their best interests these weapons are found, as well as everyone else around them.
“Undermining police officers who use stop and search to protect the public risks the progress that has been made to make our town safer – which is still a work in progress.”
Simon Foster, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “This plan is about making stop and search more efficient and effective, with the intention of removing more dangerous weapons from our streets – there is no reference in the plan to scaling back the number of stop and searches.
“Of course stop and search is intrusive, if it wasn’t then no hidden weapons would be found.
“Since 2010, West Midlands Police has lost 2,221 police officers as a consequence of the MP for West Bromwich East’s own government having defunded our police service. That has undermined the hard work of our police officers and left the people of the West Midlands, including her constituents, less safe and secure.
“The force is due to receive 1,200 back over the coming years, leaving West Midlands Police with over 1,000 missing officers. I call on the MP for West Bromwich East to join me in demanding that her government return our 1,000 missing officers and in my fight for fair funding for West Midlands Police.”
Last week, Mike Wood MP, Dudley South, condemned the comments and raised them in Prime Minister’s Questions, asking: “The new police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands has chosen to cut back on stop and search across the region.
“Can the Prime Minister confirm that while stop and searches must be proportionate and not discriminatory, they remain an important part of keeping our streets and our communities safe?”
A Freedom of Information request released by West Midlands Police this year showed around 11 per 1,000 black people in the region have been searched, compared to three per 1,000 white people.
The proportion of Asian people searched is at eight per 1,000.
Police chiefs insist stop and search is a vital tool used in the fight against crime, amid soaring knife and other violent crime rates in the region, but critics say the way it targets black and Asian people risks breeding suspicion and mistrust in the police.
Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter
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