Melton residents are being invited to help scrutinise the way Leicestershire Police uses stop and search powers.
The External Stop and Search Reference Group is on the lookout for new members and applications are particularly invited from young people under the age of 25 and individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
The group monitors a range of issues relating to stop and Ssearch, including the reasons for stopping people and the proportionality of black, asian and other minority groups who are stopped and searched compared to white people.
The group also makes recommendations about changes in working practice.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a report five years ago following a study of the differences in rates of stop and search between individual police forces throughout the country. It concluded that, at that time, Leicestershire had high levels of disproportionality between black and white people who were being stopped and searched.
As a result, the force began to introduce major changes in its approach, and also commissioned De Montfort University (DMU) to carry out further research.
DMU researchers inspected some 13,000 stop and search records dating from 2011 to 2013. It found that over those two years the number of stop searches reduced significantly for all ethnic groups.
However, it also found that disproportionality was still an issue between different ethnic groups, and it made recommendations about more effective supervision and the recording of grounds for exercising the powers.
Assistant Chief Constable Phil Kay said: “We have made massive changes to our whole stop and search approach in the years since the EHRC report and since the period reviewed by DMU.
“The number of stop searches has continued to fall as has the disproportionality rate.
“Moreover, last summer we launched two key elements of the national best use of stop and search voluntary scheme which was designed to contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, deliver better and more intelligence-led stop and search, and improve stop-to-arrest ratios.
“Today, Leicestershire Police records all outcomes of stop and search and whether there is a connection between the grounds for the search and the outcome.
“We still have some way to go, but over the last five years we have made very significant changes for the better.”
Jean Hine, reader in criminology at DMU, who was commissioned to undertake the research, said: “Leicestershire Police is to be congratulated on commissioning independent scrutiny of their stop and search records.
“There was no evidence of racism or disproportionality by individual officers but the work shows how unconscious bias may affect disproportionality. The disproportionate use of stop search with children and young people aged between 10 and 20 is also an important factor in relation to ethnic disproportionality ratios. It is good to hear that this research has informed force policy in relation to stop and search.”
Anyone wanting to join the External Stop Search Reference Group should contact Anamaria Garcia on (0116) 2042790 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org