The Crime and Security Act 2010 allows police forces – if they wish – to stop recording “stop and account” encounters with the public, while still requiring full records to be kept if a full search takes place.
Initially, the Metropolitan Police intended to use the provisions of the Act and end the recording and monitoring of “stop and account” encounters. The Metropolitan Police Authority persuaded the Met that it would be wise to consult the public on this and a joint consultation exercise followed.
This consultation exercise found overwhelming support for the continuation of recording and monitoring such encounters and today it has been confirmed that the new Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has issued an instruction that the Met will continue to record all “stop and account” encounters.
This is a vindication of the stance taken on this issue by the Metropolitan Police Authority (not popular with some senior officers of the Met at the time).
It reflects the strong feeling – particularly amongst young people – that recording such encounters was an important safeguard against the over-use or inappropriate use of the power against particular individuals or groups. (It is also incidentally a safeguard for officers who might otherwise be accused of abusing the power who will now be able to point to statistical evidence of how they have used the power properly and proportionately.)
It is, of course, true that the recording process has been over-bureaucratised and the process of recording “stop and account” encounters needs to be stream-lined. I am sure that following this decision by the Commissioner that will now follow.
There is also an onus on the Police Authority to ensure that sensible community-based monitoring processes are in place, so that communities can be reassured that the police are using their powers in a responsible fashion. In my experience, most communities and most young people are happy with the responsible use of “stop and account” to help reduce the use of knives and other crime, provided people stopped are treated with reasonable degree of respect.
It will be interesting to see whether other police forces now follow the Met’s lead and whether the commitment of the Police Authority in London to effective community-based monitoring will be carried forward by the new Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime, when it is established (following the passage earlier this month of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act).