We stop and search people to help keep our communities safe
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Find out what happens during a stop and search
We don’t just stop people and search them. We take weapons and drugs off our streets to help keep our communities safe.
This is what our force tactical lead for stop and search says, after our officers carried out 16,636 stop and searches in the past year.
Superintendent Phil Stinger explains:
“Stop and search is an important tactic we use to help us investigate crime and keep the public safe. “Officers stop and search people to protect people and take knives, drugs, and guns off our streets. “We don’t use this policing power lightly but we will use it when we suspect people are carrying drugs, weapons or stolen property, that is, to prevent and detect crime. “Officers do this while ensuring they comply with the law and they do it in a respectful way. If you are searched, it doesn’t mean you’re being arrested. In fact, it can avoid unnecessary arrests. “And stop and search works. Across Essex, possession of weapons offences have increased by almost a fifth in the past year. These offences are often detected as a result of positive, proactive policing like stop and search.”
Along Southend seafront and surrounding areas alone, between April and July this year, officers carried out 184 stop and searches and 45% of those led to the discovery of illegal items. including drugs and weapons.
A teenager was arrested in Harlow in July after being stopped by police officer and searched. He was found to be in possession of a knife, arrested on suspicion of possession of a bladed article and released under investigation.
Officers will also stop vehicles if they believe the driver or passengers are acting suspiciously. Last month, two men, aged 61 and 34, were stopped in Ingatestone. After officers searched the car, the men were arrested and charged with possession with intent to supply a Class B drug. They have since appeared in court.
Outcomes of stop and searches range from arrest, court summons and seizure of drugs, weapons or stolen property to the issuing of community resolutions and khat or cannabis warnings.
“We value our communities so we are continually striving to improve our procedure and the experience of people who are stopped and searched. Across Essex, 60 per cent of people have confidence in our use of stop and search. “Almost two-thirds of people in our county are confident in the way our officers conduct themselves while carrying out stop and searches but we realise we have to work to gain the confidence of the remaining 40%. “All of our stop and searches are recorded by an officer’s body-worn video camera and members of an independent review panel regularly review a random selection, while we also seek feedback from people who have been stopped and searched about how it impacted them. “And we are working to reduce the disproportionality of our stop and searches. In the last three years the disproportionality of people from minority ethnic communities being stopped and searched has halved. Currently, someone from an ethnic minority is 1.5 times more likely to be stopped in Essex than a white person. This rises to 2.35 times more likely for people from the black community. “So, in September 2020, we launched our Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, and Cohesion working group to specifically address this issue and we work with our local Independent Advisory Groups to identify the best way to talk to communities about the impact of disproportionality.” Superintendent Phil Stinger
Essex Police is also recruiting to improve the diversity of our workforce to better understand and reflect the diversity of our communities.
“We’ve increased the proportion of officers from non-white communities, meaning we better represent the people we keep safe and understand their concerns. “And our latest independent confidence survey showed that almost 80% of people from non-white communities think Essex Police does a good or excellent job.” Superintendent Phil Stinger
What is the difference between a section 60 and a dispersal order? Find out
Sometimes, following concerns regarding anti-social behaviour or disorder in an area, when it’s believed there’s a genuine risk of serious violence, a senior police officer will authorise a section 60, or a dispersal order.
The orders can be put in place ahead of an event or in response to an incident, when the senior police officer reasonably believes there will be incidents of crime and disorder, anti-social behaviour or where serious violence is likely to be caused. The orders will be in place for a specified time period and over a set area.
Neither order prevents residents or visitors being in the area. However, if a dispersal order is in place, police officers have the power to instruct people they suspect may cause issues later, to leave the area, even if they are not causing issues at the time they are stopped.
If a Section 60 has been authorised, police officers have the power to stop and search anyone in its area and they can search without the usual grounds for suspicion that they must have for a normal stop and search.
Stop and search
We know the idea of a stop and search can feel intimidating and inconvenient. But to keep our communities safe from serious harm, particularly crimes involving drugs and weapons, it’s important we have the power to stop and search people.
For more information about what happens when you are stopped and searched by a police officer, your rights and where you can leave feedback, please go to our we value our communities page.