Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by StopWatch [IPCC 12]


1. StopWatch is an action group formed of leading organisations from civil society, the legal profession and academia. StopWatch aims to ensure the fair and effective use of stop and search powers to promote safety and positive police community relations.

StopWatch is grateful for the opportunity to respond to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

In this submission, we provide a response to the following three areas:

The independence of the Commission;

The powers and responsibilities of the Commission; and

The effectiveness of Commission investigations.

Please note, for the purpose of clarification that when referring to stop and search, we are including stop and account and stop and searches conducted under the variety of police powers.

1. The independence of the Commission

2. One of the key purposes of the IPCC is to have an independent and proactive role in building a police complaints system in which all sections of the community and the police service can have confidence.1 While we acknowledge that lessons have been learnt from the experiences of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and there appears to be increased independence of complaint investigations in some aspects, we cannot ignore that practices such as the recruitment of former police officers raises concerns around how truly independent the IPCC is.

3. The recruitment of former police officers as investigators raises concerns about independence and impartiality of the investigation of complaints. Concerning is the presumption that former officers will be able to conduct impartial and effective investigations into the conduct of current officers and police force practices. While we appreciate the reassurance from the IPCC that there are no circumstances in which an IPCC investigator, with a police background, can investigate a former colleague with whom they worked,2 in reality, it does little to counteract the public perception of life long camaraderie and solidarity between police officers. There is also little to reassure the public that a former police officer will not behave more sympathetically towards the investigated officer, due to his knowledge of the demanding role of that officer.

4. There is an inherent lack of diversity within the Commission at all levels, which among other factors can be linked to the recruitment process, further damaging the perception of a truly independent IPCC, fuelling lack of public confidence. There is no evidence to suggest that the IPCC has made proactive efforts to make their recruitment process more accessible to individuals of Black Minority Ethnic groups within its institution. It is crucial that a body which is policing various law enforcement institutions is a representation of the communities it represents to establish and maintain public confidence. Concerning are also the low complaints figures of Black and Asian individuals (10%) in comparison with those of White individuals (57%),3 which we do not believe to be attributable to greater satisfaction of policing amongst BME individuals. Notably, the IPCC states that: “people who are unhappy with stop and search encounters, in particular young people and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, have the least confidence both in the police and the police complaints system.”4

5. There is a need to raise awareness amongst the public of the function of the IPCC by communicating some of the positive outcomes through various media outlets, including social media. Prosecution outcomes, misconduct and recommendations should be more widely publicised in a format which is easy to understand and accessible to all. Transparency of the IPCC is vital for public confidence so that the police can be seen to be subject to rigorous, fair and open scrutiny. Materials should be targeted to different groups, using a variety of mediums. If citizens are to have confidence in the police service as a whole, they must feel that when they complain about individual instances of police misconduct their allegations will be investigated thoroughly and impartially. Independence and openness is required at every stage of investigations.5

2. The powers and responsibilities of the Commission

6. The Commission’s current powers provide the remit to investigate death, serious injury, corruption and other serious complaints against the police was to play a key role in ensuring that the British way of policing by consent works effectively. The regulations further stipulate that all incidents in specific categories are mandatory for referral to the IPCC so that it can decide on a case-by-case basis whether to investigate it itself or supervise a police investigation or neither. At present, stop and search complaints do not fall within this category and are usually handled at a local level.

7. Last year’s riots starkly brought stop and search back into the spotlight. In December 2011, the Riots, Communities and Victim’s Panel identified police “stop and search” practices as one of the factors behind last summer’s riots. In many of the areas the inquiry visited, stop and search was identified as a major source of discontent with the police. In some instances, these tensions were cited as a motivating factor in the riots and a reason for some of the attacks on the police. This finding was echoed by research conducted by the Guardian and the London School of Economics, Reading the Riots, which found that anger at the police was a major cause of the London riots, with 86% of rioters citing policing as an important, or very important, factor in causing the disorder.6

8. The 2009 Home Affairs Select Committee report on progress since the Lawrence Inquiry noted that minority ethnic people remain “over-policed and under-protected within our criminal justice system.”7 The Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) investigation into the use of stop and search powers in 2010 concluded that a number of police forces are using the powers in a manner that is disproportionate and possibly discriminatory.8

9. Stop and search is deeply contentious and profoundly shapes peoples’ attitudes towards the police. This is particularly true of young people, who often feel targeted, embarrassed, and humiliated by the experience of repeat stop and search encounters. Stop and search is grossly disproportionate, undermining public assessments of police fairness and as a result damaging public support and cooperation with the police.

10. Research shows that unsatisfactory contacts between the police and the public can have a negative impact on public confidence in the police, not only for the individual directly involved, but also for his or her family, friends, and associates.9 Many young men, particularly those from black and Asian communities, feel they are being stopped and/or searched simply because they fit a general stereotype, and this is fuelling anger and alienation amongst some communities and jeopardizing their support of the police and the use of their powers.10 Ethnic disproportionality fundamentally undermines public assessments of the fairness and legitimacy of the police and the wider criminal justice system.11 When members of the public are treated rudely and unfairly, trust and confidence in the police suffers. When members of the public are treated fairly and with respect, they are more supportive of the police and more respectful of the law.12 Ultimately, police officers rely on legitimacy, cooperation and compliance with the law to be able to undertake policing functions and uphold the law. When the police lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the policed they lose their claim to the monopoly of the use of force and disorder can arise, as was the case in August 2011.13

11. Given the severity effects of stop and search, as outlined above, it is crucial that complaints concerning stop and search are removed from the remit of the professional standards board and directly investigated by the IPCC. Given the importance of the issue and the damaging effect stop and search can have on communities, all complaints regarding stop and search should be directly referred to the IPCC. At present, only complaints about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 are automatically referred from local police forces to the IPCC. This is a welcome move towards ensuring that this power, being UK’s most wide ranging stop-and-search power, is more accountable and transparent particularly since it operates outside of the PACE framework. This should apply to all stop and search powers to ensure equal oversight. The IPCC must be given more powers to investigate complaints and claims of misconduct by community members in order to foster and rebuilt good relationships and trust within the complaints system. Especially, given that the changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code of Practice A in March 2011 removing the mandatory national recording of stop and account, have created the danger of different levels of service to communities in different policing areas. The changes remove a vital form of redress for individuals who feel they are been unfairly or inappropriately stopped. The changes undermine the complaints systems. There will be no proof that stops took place thus denying those affected the chance to seek remedy through the complaints system and ultimately the courts. Thus all complaints related to stop and search should be directed to the IPCC for investigation to reinstate some form of redress.

3. The effectiveness of Commission investigations

12. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the IPCC investigations with the lack of public information available. The lack of transparency of the service is concerning, as it a vital component for public trust and confidence. It is important that data specifying referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service and consequent charging decisions are made public. The same applies to recommendations made to police services and other law enforcement agencies. This information should be readily available in order to assess the effectiveness of investigations and allow scrutiny.

13. We believe that there is a need for public involvement in the scrutiny of law enforcement services in areas, such as stop and search, to rebuild strained relationships between police services and communities adversely affected by the disproportionate use of that power. Focus needs to shift from policing communities to solving problems with local communities through effective communication and engagement. We would welcome consideration of various methods, which will actively involve community representatives in the investigation process of police complaints; specifically, where the complaint relates to stop and search. In this instance we would welcome pilots where investigations are conducted by a panel of investigators and local community members.

14. The current system for the implementation of recommendations following investigation does not confer sufficient powers to the IPCC to compel a law enforcement institution, including counter terrorism officers, to adopt recommendations. We recognize that a system must be in place to address recommendations; however, this does not require their implementation. The decision whether to implement remains that of the respective force.14 It is important that recommendations are enforced and the IPCC should be given these powers instead of relying on costly judicial review processes to ensure enforcement, which will restore public confidence in the services authority and effectiveness. Particularly, recommendations for stop and search policing need to be applied quickly to re-establish good community and police relations.

Conclusions and Recommendations

15. A truly independent, vocal and transparent IPCC is vital for public confidence and effective policing. To this end, StopWatch encourages considerations of the following points:

Former police officers acting as investigators affects public perception of the IPCC’s independence from police services. It is important to minimise the numbers of former police officers within the institution to increase public confidence and positive perception of independence.

The lack of diversity within the institution on all levels is concerning. We need a service which is a representation of the communities it represents. Recruitment needs to be tailored to insure diversity in all levels of the institution.

Transparency of the IPCC is vital for public confidence so that the police can be seen to be subject to rigorous, fair and open scrutiny. There needs to be greater emphasis on information and data sharing with the public.

It is crucial that complaints regarding stop and search are directly referred to the IPCC given the importance of the issue and the damaging effect this has on our communities.

The IPCC must monitor police complaints arising out of stops and stop and searches so that patterns of disproportionate use against people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in certain boroughs, police stations and/or by certain police officers can be identified and addressed by the IPCC.

New investigation methods including local community members need to be explored and piloted, especially for those concerning stop and search complaints.

The IPCC must be given sufficient enforcement powers to ensure that polices forces, including counter terrorism commands, comply with the decisions of the IPCC rather than relying on lengthy and costly judicial reviews.

Young people should be engaged at all levels of the work of the IPCC, including on various high level or strategic committees, to ensure that their voices are heard.

About StopWatch

StopWatch is a coalition that seeks to work with communities, ministers, policy makers and senior police officers to ensure that reforms to the police service are fair and inclusive, and lead to better policing for all.

StopWatch aims to ensure that the stop and search agenda progresses on fair grounds. Comprising leading figures from civil society, the legal professions and academia, StopWatch is committed to the following Core Aims:

(1)Reintroduction of full recording and extension of measures to ensure police accountability and transparency in their use of stop-searches.

(2)Substantial reductions in the use of stop-searches and elimination of ethnic disproportionality.

(3)Challenge the use of stop-searches, which do not require “reasonable suspicion.”

(4)Promote civil liberties, in particular those affected by extension of policing powers in arenas such as migration, identification (DNA, fingerprinting, biometrics etc) and transport.

(5)Investigating and advocating alternatives to stop-searches, and supporting the police in implementing them.

(6)Empowering all who are affected by stop-searches and help them to make their voices heard.

Members of StopWatch include: Equanomics UK; Independent Academic Research Studies; Howard League for Penal Reform, Just for Kids Law, Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE; Muslim Safety Forum; NACRO; Newham Monitoring Group; Not Another Drop; Open Society Justice Initiative; Release; Runnymede Trust; School of Law, Kings College London; Second Wave and Turning Point.

Stop Watch

July 2012

1 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/comp-against-pol/complaints-against-police.pdf?view=Binary

2 http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8056/8056.pdf (accessed 26 June 2012)

3 http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/en/Pages/stats.aspx (Police Complaint: Statistics for England and wales 2010–11)

4 IPCC position regarding police powers to stop and search

5 http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/policy/reports/an-independent-police-complaints-commission-april-2000.pdf

6 The Riots, Communities and Victim’s Panel (2011). Five Days in August, available at: http://www.5daysinaugust.co.uk

7 Home Affairs Select Committee (2009). The Macpherson Report - Ten Years On, session 2008–09

8 Equalities and Human Rights Commission (2010). Stop and Think: A Critical Review of the Use of Stop and Search Powers in England and Wales. London: EHRC.

9 Miller, J, Bland N, and Quinton P (2000), The Impact of Stops and Searches on Crime and the Community, Police Research Series Paper 127, London: Home Office.

10 Sharp, D, and Atherton, S (2007) “To Serve and Protect? The Experiences of Policing in the Community of Young People from Black and Other Ethnic Minority Groups”, British Journal of Criminology, 47(5): 746-763.

11 Sunshine, J and Tyler, T R (2003). “The Role of Procedural Justice and Legitimacy in Public Support for Policing”, Law and Society Review, 37(3): 513-548; Tyler, T R (2006). “Legitimacy and Legitimation”, Annual Review of Psychology, 57: 375–40.

12 Tyler, T R and Fagan, J (2008). “Legitimacy and cooperation: why do people help the police fight crime in their communities?” Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 6, 231-275; Hough, M, Jackson, J, Bradford, B, Myhill, A., and Quinton, P. (2010). “Procedural Justice, Trust and Institutional Legitimacy”, Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 4: 203-2010.

13 Bradford, B and Jackson, Jonathan (2011). “When Trust is Lost: The British and their Police after the Tottenham Riots,” Books and Ideas.Net

14 http://statguidance.ipcc.gov.uk/Pages/learning.aspx#para593

Prepared 1st February 2013