NEW rights entitling everyone who is stopped by police to ask for a written record are to be unveiled on Merseyside today.
The stop and account procedure, which has been tested in seven areas of the country including Sefton since April, 2003, was initially set out in a recommendation stemming from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report.
It entitles every member of the public who is stopped by the police to ask for a written record giving the reason they have been stopped.
The procedure aims to help in the prevention and detection of crime and make the procedure more transparent, and ensure police officers are more accountable to the public.
It is now gradually being introduced across the rest of the country, and will become procedure on Merseyside on April 1.
It comes just over a month after the Daily Post revealed black people are still four times as likely as their white neighbours to be stopped and searched by police on Merseyside.
The latest figures available for Merseyside indicate that matters are improving. In a six-month period from 2003, the force stopped and searched 346 black people, as against 201 in the same period in 2004.
The death in 1993 of teenager Stephen Lawrence highlighted the issue of institutionalised racism in the police.
Among the recommendations of the Lawrence inquiry was the introduction of new guidelines under which the police had to log the number of people stopped, as well as searched.
Currently, anyone who is stopped on Merseyside, except in Sefton, is only entitled to a written record if they are also searched.
The Home Office defines a police stop as "when an officer requests a person in a public place to account for themselves ie: their actions, behaviour, presence, in an area or possession of anything."
It advises officers: "A record of the encounter must be completed at the time and a copy given to the person who has been questioned, unless there are exceptional circumstances."
It adds : "A record of an encounter must always be made when a person requests it, regardless of whether the officer considers that the criteria set out has been met."
Today, the chairman of Merseyside Police Authority, Cllr Bill Weightman, and Sefton Chief Superintendent Dave Lewis will announce how the pilot has worked in Sefton.
There were a total of 47,106 stop and searches on Merseyside between April 2002 and March 2003.
Stops started being recorded in Sefton under the new guidelines, known as Recommendation 61, on April 1, 2003.
There were 19,601 stop and searches recorded between April 2003 and March 2004.
Merseyside Police Authority says the decrease compared to the previous year is reflective of the fact that stop and search powers are used more selectively and consistently in line with force policy. The arrest rate rose from 10.9% to 14.6%.
The new system will mean some extra costs, as yet undisclosed for Merseyside Police.
What a policeman who stops you will be expected to do
WHEN a police officer stops a member of the public he will be expected to record:
* The name of the person stopped (or if withheld, their description);
* the date, time and place of encounter;
* if the person is in a vehicle, its registration number;
* the person's self-defined ethnicity;
* the person's ethnicity as perceived by the officer;
* the reason for the encounter;
* the outcome of the encounter;
¦ whether a record was requested by the member of the public, irrespective of whether it is a recordable encounter.