Police training pledge after review

JON WELCH Norfolk police have pledged to improve training and supervision of officers after a review of the use of stop and search powers. The study was ordered after figures showed black people in the county were nearly 12 times more likely than white people to be searched.

JON WELCH

Norfolk police has pledged to improve training and supervision of officers after a review of the use of stop-and-search powers.

The study was ordered after figures showed that black people in the county were nearly 12 times more likely than white people to be searched. During the first quarter of 2006/07, there were 18.8 searches per 1,000 population among black people, compared with 1.6 among whites.

The review found members of black and ethnic-minority communities and young people in general across Norfolk were more likely to have a negative experience of the searches than other members of the community, and to find them "unjustified, impolite and unprofessional".

The law allows police to stop and search people for a variety of reasons, for instance if they think they may be carrying weapons or drugs.

Police also have the right to stop people and ask them to account for their actions, a procedure known as "stop and account".

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The review, conducted by the Norfolk Independent Advisory Group, Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council, Norfolk Police Authority and the force itself, found little evidence of active supervision of stop and search and stop and account.

Police officers and police community support officers said the forms they were required to fill in to record these encounters were too long and could act as a barrier to communication with the public.

The review scrutinised national research and the force's policies. Surveys were sent to 800 people identified from the police stop- and-search database, but only 27 responses were received. A further seven responses came from a focus group in Norwich.

The report recommended improving officers' training in the use of stop and search, and improving supervision to ensure that all members of the public are treated equally.

Julie Benson, of the Norwich and Norfolk Race Equality Council, said: "We welcome the recommendations and look forward to monitoring the outcomes through the joint working approach."

Jenny McKibben, a police authority member, said: "The use of stop and search has been a matter of public concern for some time and we now have an agreed report drawing upon the public's experience which will be used to make a real improvement to our service."

Supt Glyn Evans said: "The recommend-ations will assist us to build on the work already taking place in the constabulary and will help to further improve the good work among our officers...

"Stop and search is an important tool in the fight against crime and we recognise our officers have a very difficult task to do. Nevertheless, it is vital to get it right first time to ensure our interactions with the public continue to remain as professional as possible," he said.

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