Borough Beat blog: We want your opinions on stop and search

By Admin | 12/09/2019

Borough Beat blog: We want your opinions on stop and search
Chief Inspector Chris Foster

AS the newest Chief Inspector in Rotherham, I was delighted to be able to contribute to the local paper and write about my job in the traditional way, alongside my regular Twitter posts @CFosterSYP. 

It’s been a real privilege to get to know the officers and staff who work so hard for Rotherham people and to meet some of you at events. 

As a Barnsley lad, I’ve received a warm welcome and will work hard to serve the people of Rotherham.

I would like your opinions around something which as an officer I believe is a useful preventatve and reactive tool — stop and search.

It is something that has been a somewhat controversial police power throughout history, sparking rioting where used inappropriately and affecting community confidence.

But it is also used to remove knives and drugs from our streets and return stolen property to its owners. 

There is no doubt that it is an effective tool but its use can also have a real impact on people — we need to ensure it is used correctly and proportionately.

As a member of the public, would you expect to see officers stopping and searching people? 

Would you be concerned if you were stopped and searched yourself (with appropriate grounds to do so) and do you believe it is a power which should be used by your officers? 

There are a number of powers available to police officers to allow us to utilise our search powers but we mainly search for drugs, weapons and stolen or prohibited items. 

It is how we conduct ourselves during these searches and how we record these searches that is the key to retaining your confidence. 

We have recently trained all staff in Rotherham around the revised use of our powers and how to improve their recording of any encounters.

We have also set up a local scrutiny panel, made up of independent members of the community who come and scrutinise the submissions of our officers, hold us to account and ask questions around our use of stop and search. 

These volunteers ask relevant, searching and appropriate questions and it is my role as force lead for stop and search to provide answers, monitor what our officers are doing and relay the feedback. 

I would like to ask if anyone would be interested in joining the panel.

I would particularly like to hear from anyone who has been subject of stop and search and who would be interested in discussing their experiences and suggest improvements.

You will probably have seen more of our officers wearing body cameras and they will be using these in situations, such as when they are searching people. 

I intend to try and show some of these encounters in the scrutiny panels to demonstrate how professional our officers are during searches and that they comply with the law. 

I believe, when used in the correct way, stop and search can be an impactful, necessary and proportionate tool for use in keeping our communities safe. 

We need to ensure that we do this properly, professionally and courteously.”

To get involved in the scrutiny group, contact Chris.Foster@southyorks.pnn.police.uk.