Wed, 30 May 2007

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are jointly making it very clear that they don't like at all the ‘stop and question’ powers that the government is proposing. Len Duvall, chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said:
If we want to set back community-police relations and return to the bad old days of the ‘sus’ laws of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when levels of mistrust between police and public were at record highs and had drastic consequences, then the introduction of a new blank cheque power to stop and question anyone, anywhere, anytime without reasonable grounds for suspicion, is a very quick way of achieving this.

Neither the Metropolitan Police Authority nor the Metropolitan Police Service have called for this power because we understand the serious damage it could cause to the police’s relationship with London’s communities.
However, they do like the existing ‘stop and search’ powers they already have. He added:
Section 44 stop and search powers already give police the power to stop someone without having reasonable grounds, just by virtue of the fact they are in a specified geographical area at a time when police have satisfied the Home Secretary that there is a heightened risk.
Tomorrow the MPS will present its Review of police use of counter-terrorism Stop and Search powers in London at the MPA monthly meeting. The recommendations are:
  1. the MPS continues to appropriately apply to the Secretary of State for authority to use Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 (Section 44) powers (currently pan – London);
  2. the MPS continues to constantly review the appropriateness of a pan London authority and based upon the threat, intelligence and operational requirements continue to only apply for pan-London authority when it is needed to support tactics to prevent terrorism. However this recommendation is subject to the further recommendations made throughout this report;
  3. the MPS revisits and updates the Section 44 Standing Operating Procedure (SOP), and ensures that staff receive adequate briefing for the appropriate and legitimate use of Section 44 powers. Thorough post event de-briefing will be conducted to ensure effectiveness and highlight opportunities for improvement;
  4. the MPS provides sufficient training to enable staff confidently and properly to exercise their powers under all stop / search provisions;
  5. the MPS nominates a strategic lead officer for the tactical pan-London use of Section 44, to co-ordinate activity from the receipt of Section 44 authority through deployment and post deployment monitoring;
  6. as with the exercise of all other stop and search powers, the MPS promotes the tactical option of ‘stop and account’ within a revised SOP (See Recommendation Three);
  7. the MPS maximise opportunities to engage public awareness in the use across London of Section 44 by using appropriate high visibility signs / other equipment, where appropriate;
  8. the MPS develop a comprehensive communication strategy and engagement plan to ensure Londoners receive a consistent level of accurate information pertaining to police use of Section 44; and
  9. the MPS should conduct an annual MPS Equality Impact Assessment in respect to Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
These recommendations are in response to the MPA report Counter-terrorism: the London debate. The first recommendation of this report is: ‘Present an urgent review of the use of Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 stop and search to the full Metropolitan Police Authority. Include in this review a clear rationale explaining why a given individual is stopped and searched rather than another. If unable to demonstrate to the Metropolitan Police Authority’s satisfaction through this review that the power is sufficiently effective in countering terrorism to outweigh the damage it does to community relations, stop using it, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as where there is a specific threat to a particular location.’

Will the MPA object to the MPS' recommendations? Unlikely as Len Duvall adds today: “While the MPA recognises the need to use all available tools to prevent terrorism, we are determined these tools should be as transparent and publicly accountable as possible.” Len Duvall appears not to fully endorse the conclusions of the MPA report (the foreword is signed by Reshard Auladin, Lord Toby Harris and Cindy Butts) that take the MPS to task. From my very limited experience of asking one question to the MPA, I found Len Duvall very much on the defensive protecting the MPS while other members offered more balanced views. Here are further, very similar, comments Len Duvall made in answer to my question: ‘The Chair [...] reiterates that stop and search is just one of tactics at the disposal of the police and that 'we can't rule out any tactic'. The Chair also refutes my argument that stop and searches happen on the basis of a stereotypical profiling, arguing that there's no profiling: all races are likely to be stopped and searched (but possibly one faith).’

From the MPS review:
55. ACPO have released advice in relation to Section 44 which also deals with the issue of selection for searching, emphasising that the power can be used in both a targeted and non-targeted way but should never be based on stereotypical views of terrorists. In the absence of specific intelligence, search activity may be on a more random basis, with a wide range of people being stopped.
This was of course not what happened in my case and the ACPO interim practice advice on stop of search does recommend behavioural profiling that is dangerously close to stereotyping.
61. There have been 19 complaints made in the MPS since Section 44 came into force in 2000, none of which were substantiated. In 2006 0.22% of Stop and Search activity (excluding Section 44) resulted in complaint. For Section 44, the figure was 0.01%. No formal disciplinary proceedings have resulted from complaints in relation to Section 44. However, 5 cases resulted in local resolution and the remainder were classified as unsubstantiated or withdrawn. All the locally resolved complaints related to incivility.
This data has been selectively compiled. Following my complaint to the IPCC, several officers involved received disciplinary sanctions so my complaint cannot be counted in these ‘19 complaints’. The stop and search was found to be lawful and hence was not the direct cause of the sanctions, it is the ensuing arrest and search of my flat which were found to be unlawful and the general poor conduct of the investigation that were the justification for the sanctions. This likely explains why it is not counted in the figure mentioned. If I hadn't been stopped and searched none of the rest would have happened. There's likely a large number of similar cases where complaints that could and should be attributed to stop and search will be counted only in some other category.

Note: Thanks to DW for pointing out the MPA press release in the comments of the excellent Police not consulted post by UK Liberty.

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