The police watchdog has said it is ‘concerned’ over Cheshire Constabulary’s use of stop and search.
In its ‘legitimacy’ appraisal published on February 11, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate Of Constabularies (HMIC) said that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups were disproportionately affected by stop and search in Cheshire but that it had seen no evidence that the force had tried to work out why.
HMIC added that too many stop and search records did not contain ‘sufficient reasonable grounds for conducting the search’. The watchdog raised further concern over a lack of supervision of these records and that it was ‘clear that Cheshire Constabulary is not complying with the best use of stop and search scheme’.
The report came as HMIC also published a broader review of stop and search, accusing police forces of an ‘inexcusable’ lack of improvement, with 13 including Cheshire out of 43 forces not complying with expected standards.
Home Secretary Theresa May has suspended those 13 police forces including Cheshire from the ‘best use of stop and search’ scheme.
Cheshire police stressed that it had not been suspended from using stop and search powers, but that its suspension from the ‘stop and search best use scheme’ referred only to its inclusion in the list of top-performing constabularies.
The plus points
There were plus points for Cheshire police in HMIC’s integrity report, with the watchdog praising the appropriate the use of Tasers.
It also graded the constabulary as ‘outstanding’ in how it engages with and fairly treats the public, adding that officers were well directed through the ‘We’re Here’ scheme.
The legitimacy report, which assessed ethics and professional standards, graded Cheshire police as ‘good’ overall.
It said staff were generally satisfied that recruitment and promotions were fair, transparent and free from bias.
The Chief Constable and his team actively promoted the ‘Spice’ values of service, professionalism, integrity, compassion, and equality and fairness.
John Dwyer, Cheshire Police And Crime Commissioner, said work has already taken place to improve its use of stop and search.
He said: “HMIC identified one area in its review for Cheshire that requires improvement regarding the use of stop and search and it is my job as commissioner to hold the chief constable to account for this.
“The public can be reassured that the force has already improved its position since the inspection and I will continue to monitor progress.”
Reflecting on the overall report, Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “We are rightly proud of the service we deliver to the public here in Cheshire – and understanding and interacting with local communities is the bread and butter of everyday policing. This independent assessment has rated Cheshire as ‘outstanding’ in this particular area – this is great news for the force and reflects the hard work and achievements of every officer and member of staff.
“The report is very positive about our efforts to understand the local community, the comprehensive range of methods we use to interact with local people to discover their needs, and how we report back on what has been achieved in the local area.
“HMIC has also praised the force for being well directed through its ‘We’re Here’ commitments, which clearly set out the service the public can expect, and the new policing structure, which was introduced last year and is designed to meet these priorities. This once again reinforces the fact that we may be a relatively small force but are big on delivering our commitments to the public.”