Formal Complaint – Best Use of Stop & Search
This complaint is against Gloucestershire Constabulary (the constabulary), 1 Waterwells Drive, Quedgeley, Gloucester, GL2 2AN
The complaint is made by Mr Gareth Kitchen on behalf of Stroud Against Racism (SAR) on the 31st January 2022.
Communication is preferred by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This complaint is available online at https://write.as/j4a00wx59sjbg4sp.md and a pdf copy was submitted with the e-mail to email@example.com and a copy to ContactHMICFRS@hmicfrs.gov.uk
SAR is a grass-roots community group (SAR CIC Company number: 13225296) based in Stroud and has 3,400 members primarily from Gloucestershire.
SAR has contributed with the constabulary, constructively, since its inception and believes it is respectfully engaged.
Summary of the complaint
This complaint relates to the constabulary's non-compliance with the Home Office Best Use of Stop & Search (BUSS) scheme and other recent changes to scrutiny.
The constabulary fails to honour the 'community complaints trigger mechanism', as set out in section 2.6.3(1), 2.6.3(3) & 2.6.8 of its Stop & Search Policy.
Consequently, the constabulary is non-compliant with BUSS (3.4). As stop & search powers are used disproportionally within the constabulary's area, those communities are therefore discriminated against.
Recently, the number of Stop & Search Community Scrutiny Panel (SSCSP) meetings has been reduced from from twelve to four, a 66% reduction.
The constabulary has recently mandated a confidentiality agreement for SSCSP participation.
Collectively, these points contradict the constabulary's publicly stated stop & search policy, create barriers to participation and reduce scrutiny. When the constabulary publicly states one thing whilst internally doing another it breaches trust which in turn undermines legitimacy, as stop & search powers are used disproportionally.
Therefore these changes and failures appear to be discriminatory.
The constabulary volunteered to participate in the Best Use of Stop & Search scheme (BUSS) in 2014 and have publicly committed to it. Its principal aims are to achieve greater transparency and community involvement in the use of stop & search powers. Adoption commits the force to use stop and search strategically to improve public confidence and trust.
In 2015 thirteen forces were briefly suspended from BUSS, for non-compliance, including Gloucestershire.
To demonstrate openness the constabulary now has a public facing Stop & Search Policy.
In recent years there have been two formal complaints about the constabulary's use of stop & search. Contrary to their published policy neither complaint came before the SSCSP, despite the 'community complaints trigger' being reached. This behaviour was challenged when it became known (Nov 2020) but no action was taken to modify procedures or processes.
To this day, when formal complaints are received, there is no opportunity for SSCSP to learn lessons, no opportunity for the community to suggest improvements until many months, or even years after a complaint. The SSCSP cannot function or discharge its duties in the manner mandated by its own Terms of Reference because scrutiny at SSCSP can only occur after an internal investigation by the constabulary's Professional Standards Department.
There is now suggestion that there have been seven new stop & search complaints in recent months, possibly as a consequence of political pressure to increase the use of Stop & Search powers. The SSCSP will be unaware of this. It is clear that the ability to deliver proper and timely scrutiny by the SSCSP and community groups has been lost.
Further, a confidentiality agreement has now been mandated for participation on SSCSP. This change happened without any community consultation.
The confidentiality agreement adversely affects community representatives as they are no longer able to report discussions (including scrutiny of complaints) back to their respective community groups. This agreement is far too sweeping, it is a barrier to community participation and engagement.
The constabulary's motivator for confidentiality agreements appears to be alignment with the other scrutiny panels, but clearly this pays no regard to the safeguards and reassurance that are meant to be provided by BUSS or the torrid history of stop & search itself.
In their latest PEEL assessment of the constabulary HMICFRS rated the section 'Engaging with and treating the public with fairness and respect' which covered community scrutiny; Good.
However, the non-compliance issues with the BUSS scheme were not identified by the inspector. They were also under the impression that monthly SSCSP meetings were the norm. Neither was it noted that community groups could only sit on scrutiny panels by submitting to a confidentiality agreement.
SAR will embargo public disclosure of this complaint for 30 days from submission date.
Change of processes within PSD to permit scrutiny of complained stop searches by the SSCSP, as demanded by BUSS, in the same way that other stop searches are scrutinised.
Reinstate monthly SSCSP meetings so that complaints can be scrutinised promptly and community feedback can be sought.
Retraction or amendment of the confidentiality agreement specifically for SSCSP along with proper consultation.
Sent electronically, so unsigned
Stroud Against Racism