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Stop and Search: The Evidence
The use of stop and search powers by the police is highly controversial. It is the focus of intense debate in the media and by politicians, often sparked by visceral accounts of stops which have been filmed and shared on social media. Indeed, the tactic has become a lens to view wider concerns of trust, confidence and fairness in policing.
For some, stop and search is a necessary tool for tackling serious violent crime. Others regard it as an innately disproportionate practice which targets ethnic minority communities and young Black men in particular.
But there is little comprehensive research in the UK examining attitudes towards stop and search within Black communities. Where larger-scale, more robust academic studies exist, they tend to focus on broad research areas rather than on attitudes towards stop and search specifically
We were therefore keen to address this key gap in the evidence base, by conducting research that explores attitudes towards stop and search against a backdrop of disproportionality.
The research for this project followed a mixed-methods design, including focus groups and quantitative polling, to build a richer understanding of public attitudes to stop and search.
How did we carry out the research?
Phase one considered the effectiveness of stop and search and the extent of disproportionality. It included:
An evidence review of police and public data
A roundtable discussion and interviews with national-level experts and prominent voices on this issue
Phase two of the project explored public views on the use of stop and search powers by police forces (as well as understanding what changes would make the biggest difference).
Evaluation of three alternative approaches currently being trialled and used systematically by forces
Eight focus groups in four areas across the UK
Quantitative polling of different population groups. The sample was as representative of the Black population across England and Wales as possible, with specified quotas around the different demographic factors
Phase three explored different approaches to the use of stop and search by police forces. This involved convening a virtual ‘workshop’ to discuss the design of different approaches and possible reforms to improve trust and confidence in the process, including young people and police officers from different forces.
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