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Stop and Search statement from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

It is concerning that Dorset Police has, for more than a decade, been a national outlier in its disproportionate use of stop and search. According to the latest government statistics available (for 2018/19), Dorset Police was 25 times more likely to stop a Black person than a White person, which is the biggest difference of any police force.

This is clearly not acceptable.

The PCC’s concern with this disproportionality ratio has grown in recent years and, as a result, we have worked closely with the Force, querying its analysis and assumptions, and highlighting areas of potential weakness both informally, and formally through the OPCC-led Independent Stop and Search Scrutiny Panel.

We were pleased our concerns were taken seriously and recognise the greater energy being leveraged against this intractable problem by Force leadership. However, despite this effort, the disproportionality ratio remains the largest in England and Wales.

Recognising that a new approach was needed, in 2018, we commissioned an independent, comprehensive review, and made a number of recommendations to the Force, all of which were accepted. Whilst a range of improvement activity has been undertaken, during 2019 it became clear that this activity was still not having the required effect on the disruption of crime.

The OPCC therefore adopted a more directive approach, and asked the Force a series of research questions designed to test the Force’s assumptions about the efficacy of stop and search. These are yet to be answered to the PCC’s satisfaction.

The OPCC continues to robustly challenge Dorset Police to improve its use of stop and search. This includes not only performance, but also the use of the tactic as a method to disrupt county lines activity, the policies and processes that govern it use, and the degree of oversight the Force places on its use.

Most recently, this includes a significant challenge to the Chief Constable, that has resulted in the creation of a new stop and search board and his assurance that he and his executive team will take personal responsibility for this matter.

Finally, we caution against conflating this issue with events happening elsewhere. The Police and Crime Commissioner is responsible for holding the Chief Constable to account, and he is clear that the area requiring improvement for Dorset Police relates to its use of stop and search, and nothing more.

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