Watchdog report finds police under pressure over stop and search

OFFICERS feel under pressure to carry out increasingly controversial stop-searches, a major watchdog report into the tactic has found.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) said it had interviewed frontline staff who believed they were expected to hit targets that officially do not exist.
In its most critical analysis of the new single force yet, the watchdog warned it was “not evident” that those subject to so-called consensual stop-searches were aware of their right to decline.

The number of stop-searches carried out has soared in recent years, sparking concern from a human rights group.
Overall national figures were down in 2013-14, the first year of the single force, but only because of a dramatic 20% drop in Glasgow, which the SPA said had suffered “disproportionate” searches. Figures rose across eastern Scotland.
The SPA report said: “Some officers indicated that they felt pressure to conduct a certain number of searches. This view was confirmed by the same representatives of police staff associations.”
Mass stop-searches, it found, were viewed as “business as usual” by officers in the west but new in the east and north.
It added: “The majority of police ­officers interviewed agreed that many of those who are searched on a non-statutory basis may not be aware that they have a right to decline.”
Most stop-searches in Scotland are consensual or non-statutory and may, theoretically, be refused, including most carried out on children and young people. Police have no legislative powers to search someone for alcohol.
The SPA gave the police until­ ­September to respond to recommendations designed to beef up protections for those searched – one-third of whom are children or teenagers – and make sure they are aware of their right to refuse.
Brian Barbour, the SPA member who chaired the scrutiny task group, said: “People need to be better informed of their rights, including the right to decline non-statutory search. And we need more research to better understand the longer-term impacts of stop and search on particular groups in our communities, especially younger people.
“Police Scotland’s tactical police approach to stop and search is built around searching the right people, in the right place, at the right time. We support that approach. This report is about making improvements to stop and search. It is not about making judgments on stop and search. We hope that through the work we have done, and working together with Police Scotland on the next steps, we can also reduce the polarisation of views that has grown around this issue in the last year.”
Police insiders acknowledge this will present real challenges for the force.
Wayne Mawson, the assistant chief constable in charge of such policy, insisted that officers were not under pressure. He said trying to push up the number of searches would make it harder to achieve his actual targets, which are to have a higher level of “positive” searches, where something illegal is found.
The senior officer denied that telling subjects they have a right to refuse a search would present problems. He said: “If you have no other grounds for a search and the guy just says ‘No’, then that’s it, the end of the contact. But if there are other factors the officer may move to a legislative search.”
The SPA questioned the quality of information about stop-searches, warning they could not be properly audited because they did not contain names. It is not clear, for example, if individuals are targeted over and over again.
The body questioned what impact the tactic was having on crime. Figures are down in Glasgow and Aberdeen, the highest crime areas. But the former has the highest level of stop and search and the latter among the lowest.
There were 640,000 stop-searches in 2013-14 but only 34 complaints, said Mr Mawson.

              BY THIS BITTER WEE MAN






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Welcome to Scotland, the SNP’s police state

Kenny MacAskill, justice secretary, has apparently handed over to Stephen House, chief of police
Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill gestures during a visit to a police station in Glasgow

Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill. Photograph: David Moir/Reuters
Scotland‘s SNP government has adopted a curious approach to showcasing the nation’s qualities ahead of the independence referendum. You certainly can’t accuse them of purveying a rose-tinted image of auld Scotia. For it seems that the country has, at some point in the last seven years, turned into the most illegal small country in the world and the SNP appear to be revelling in it.
For no apparent reason that I can recall, the SNP in 2007 committed itself to providing the country with an extra 1,000 police officers. There didn’t appear to have been any great popular clamour for this remarkable and expensive job creation scheme for the plods. I don’t remember any cataclysmic increases in violent crime across the country, certainly nothing which a disciplined, properly focused force operating under good leadership couldn’t cope with. Since then, we have discovered that our police force has been anything but disciplined, focused or properly led and for this the rest of us have had to pay a mighty price in money and civil liberties.
Last March, the numbers of police officers in Scotland reached a record high of 17,496, according to Scotland’s chief statistician, and the nationalists crowed that another election promise had been met and just in time for the birth of the new single police force. Huzzah! The problem, though, with providing this small and reasonably well-behaved wee country with an extra 1,000 polis is this: how do we keep them all occupied week in, week out? Easy-peasy… we simply criminalise lots of law-abiding people. And if we don’t actually criminalise them, well… we can just treat them like criminals instead.
Thus was the Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches legislation introduced in 2012, which sought to target young, working-class men from Glasgow’s poorest districts for espousing tribal sentiments in support of Celtic or Rangers. Hundreds of previously law-abiding men have been subject to Stasi tactics by the police and dragged through the courts for singing age-old songs about the war in Ireland. Others have been kettled and intimidated by foul-mouthed cops for daring to march together peacefully to a game.
Last week, we discovered what the second part of the SNP’s hitherto covert criminalise the punters strategy looked like. Between April and December last year, the police conducted almost 520,000 stop-and-search procedures on members of the Scottish public, almost 2,000 a day and twice as many as are carried out by London’s Metropolitan police.
The Scottish police claimed that this strategy of suspecting just about everyone of being a criminal was a success because nearly 20% resulted in a positive result. The previous week, we had discovered that Scots police were much more likely to go after people using mobile phones in their cars than those who had committed a sexual assault. Compared to modern, lawless Scotland, Snake Plissken had it easy in Escape From New York.
It’s all nonsense, because the crime figures are provided by the Scottish police and thus must be treated in the same manner as you would an economic progress report from North Korea. Increasingly, the Scottish police are themselves operating above the law with the impunity of a general’s private army in a banana republic. And it also seems Kenny MacAskill, the cabinet secretary for justice, without telling anyone, has transferred his powers as justice secretary to the unelected Stephen House, Scotland’s new chief of police.
In the last five years or so, we have learned that several hundred police officers actually have serious criminal records or been accused of serious criminal offences. Among the allegations are rape, sex attacks, violence, wife beating, theft, fire attacks, abduction, stalking, football disorder, racism and data breaches.
Meanwhile, despite almost 150 police officers being reported to prosecutors for alleged corruption, only six have been convicted. The alleged corruption included serious assault, bribery, blackmail and gangland activity. Unlawful access to secret files and lying in statements (an old police favourite) were the least of it. Strathclyde police, Scotland’s biggest force, refused to provide figures on the pretext of cost. At this rate, the public will soon be given stop-and-search powers over the cops. God knows what would come tumbling out of their high-vis tunics.
Last week, according to the Independent, we learned that secret groups of Freemasons have been used by organised crime gangs for years to corrupt the criminal justice system. This echoes a chilling declaration by Strathclyde’s deputy chief constable recently that 27 organised crime gangs were attempting to infiltrate the force by planting recruits in the ranks and grooming others. Yet, in Scotland the government has always resisted calls for membership of secret societies to be deemed unacceptable for all serving police officers and judges.
The abuse of their powers by the police is part of a wider picture of police corruption and lawlessness throughout the UK, which had remained unchecked despite nasty little episodes such as the Met’s Flying Squad porn baron scandal of the mid-70s. The thuggery displayed by police officers during the miners’ strike in 1984 at places such as Orgreave and Polkemmet was virtually sanctioned by Margaret Thatcher as she vowed to destroy those whom she called “the enemy within”. The Birmingham Six, the Hillsborough cover-up and the Stephen Lawrence inquiry all pointed to a force that had been allowed far too much respect by government and judiciary.
In Scotland, a supposedly enlightened, progressive and democratic administration has made the police virtually untouchable and handed the force wide-ranging and discretionary powers over the people. Yet all the evidence and anecdotal experience points to an organisation that has itself turned feral and is almost beyond state control. MacAskill, now in reality acting merely as bag carrier to House, should be brought to account for allowing this to happen on his watch. An independent review of the customs, practices and recruitment policies of the police must be undertaken before the people say enough is enough and sort it out themselves.
In the meantime, let’s put all talk about membership of the EU aside. For, at this rate, if Scotland does gain its independence in September we will merely become the newest member of the confederation of independent police states.