Hundreds of officers from six police forces have begun a stop and search training pilot to help police recognise unconscious bias.
The new training aims to address questions that have been raised about the fairness and effectiveness of the way that the power is used and focuses on the law, decision making and how officers handle encounters with the public.
For the first time, the College of Policing is taking an evidence-based and experimental approach to the development of training and will involve more than 1,300 officers from the Metropolitan Police Service, Cleveland, Sussex, Thames Valley, Greater Manchester and the British Transport Police.
Approximately 220 officers from each force were chosen to take part in the pilot, which was designed with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Half of those officers will get the training while the other half will not be trained and will continue with business-as-usual.
The impact of the training will be analysed by the College of Policing and independent researchers to establish if:
- the training changes the way officers approach stop and search
- ‘hit rates’ improve (where an item is found on a person)
- the quality of the grounds for stopping someone have improved
Richard Bennett, head of uniformed policing at the College of Policing, said:
“This is the first randomised control trial to be undertaken in British policing for the use of stop and search training.
“We know the public support the police use of stop and search powers especially where the powers are used to keep them safe.
“The challenge now is to make stop and searches more effective because high numbers of negative searches can help to create a view that they are unfair and constitute a disproportionate response from police.
“The training will help officers to recognise unconscious bias and monitor how they make decisions about the use of stop and search powers. The pilots, which will help us to develop future police training, should ensure stop and search powers are used with greater precision and see a reduction in unproductive searches.”
The evaluation aims to explore people’s reaction to the training and officers will be asked for their opinions in interviews and when out on patrol.
EHRC Commissioner, Lorna McGregor said:
“Stop and search must be lawful, non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory and based on reasonable suspicion. This is why we contracted the College of Policing to develop a comprehensive stop and search training programme to help ensure officers meet these obligations.
“We have worked closely with the College to develop and design the training to help police officers understand the importance of applying the rules fairly when stopping members of the public. Doing so is vital in building and maintaining trust between the police and the communities they serve, and increasing public confidence in the police.
“We will continue to work closely with the College of Policing to help them ensure the training programme is properly monitored and evaluated before being implemented in forces across the country next year.”
Notes to editors:
- Pilot training has begun in all six police forces and will continue until 9 October 2015
- Evaluation of officer perceptions of the training will begin after 9 October 2015
- The design, piloting, evaluation and preparation for the national implementation of the training is sponsored by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and must be completed by the end of March 2016
- For further information and interview requests please contact the College of Policing press office on 0203 113 7938, out of hours 07827 309361.
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission media office can be contacted on 0161 829 8102, out of hours 07767 272818.
The training will be classroom based and include pre-reading by officers.
It includes learning outcomes which will allow officers to:
- Outline the different types of police initiated encounters with members of the public
- Describe the potential adverse impact of a stop and search encounter on the officer, the person being searched and wider society
- Explain the impact unconscious bias can have on decision making
- Explain the impact that conscious bias can have on decision making
- Explain how to establish whether there are reasonable grounds for a lawful stop and search under Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
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