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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Chief Inspector of Constabulary: Research needed into disproportionality

More research to measure disproportionality and the effectiveness of stop and search should be carried out to fully understand how it affects certain communities and deters crime.

This is the message from the first Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2022 which highlights that people identifying as Black or Black British were searched at a much higher rate than those from a White ethnic group.

Furthermore, there is significant disproportionality in victims of crime too. The average rates of homicide per million population were approximately four times higher for Black victims than White victims in the three years to the year ending 31 March 2022, the report found.

People from Black, Asian or ethnic minority communities were almost twice as likely as the wider public to know a knife crime victim or to have been one themselves. But disproportionality in crime victimisation rates doesn’t adequately explain why there is disproportionality in stop and search rates.

While it would be easy to conclude that the latter is evidence of racism within the police, any such evidence isn’t conclusive.

The report states that research and evaluation to measure disproportionality and the effectiveness of stop and search could have a meaningful effect on police practice and help forces make sure that they use stop and search effectively and fairly.

"By 30 September 2023, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on stop and search, working with the College of Policing and academia, should commission further primary research to quantify the deterrent value of stop and search and the causes of disproportionality in its use," states the report.

Many police forces do not collect sufficient or enough good-quality data, which prevents them from having a good enough understanding of, among many other things, problems in their communities, patterns of offending or issues affecting their workforces. Regarding the data they do collect, police are not analysing it thoroughly enough, the report adds.

This hampers police efficiency, as they then struggle to establish priorities and how much it will cost. The lack of data analysis also doesn’t help them best inform how to use their limited resources, make a case for policy change with the Home Office or make requests for funding.

Their lack of understanding of their data seriously undermines police legitimacy as in too many respects, many forces don’t adequately understand whether there is disproportionality and whether they are treating people fairly.

In the report, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary describes widespread systemic failings in both the police and criminal justice system, both of which threaten to damage public trust in police.

Andy Cooke urges definitive action to be taken to address these failings, instead of “glossy strategies and mission statements” that do not bring about lasting change.

He highlights that the police service is at a historic turning point – and there is a limited window of opportunity to repair public trust.

The report makes three recommendations to the government and chief constables, which include:

  • reviewing legislation to make HMICFRS’s remit of inspection clearer and clarifying its power to inspect policing functions delivered by police and crime commissioners;

  • re-establishing the role of the inspectors of constabulary in selecting and appointing police chief officers; and

  • new research into the deterrent value of stop and search and the causes of disproportionality in its use.

Andy Cooke concluded: "I am calling for substantial reform to give the inspectors of constabulary more power to ensure we are able to do everything necessary to help police forces improve. Over the years, we have repeatedly called for change. There are only so many times we can say the same thing in different words – it is now time for the Government to bring in new legislation to strengthen our recommendations."

Sammy Odoi, managing director of Wipers, said: "Understanding disproportionality in the youth and criminal justice system is vital and something we passionately advocate for greater transparency and much-needed reform.”

"We deliver high quality training courses to youth justice services in Anti-Racism and Allyship, Cultural Competency, and Disrupting Disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System in a bid to get youth justice teams and professionals to question their practice and review how they are working with young people from minority ethnic backgrounds."


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