Stop and search is necessary but has to be done right, according to a new piece of research from The Young Foundation.
“Let’s talk about stop and search: Bringing together students, the police and community members in Tottenham”, commissioned by the College of Haringey, Enfield and North London in the wake of the 2011 riots, sought to explore the impact of stop and search on young people in the borough.
The report highlights how stop and search procedures are one of the key touch points between police and young people, with nearly all young people spoken to understanding the need for the policy. Yet many young people remain unsure of how it should be carried out, what their rights are, and felt that police fail to provide them with the simple information that might make the procedure less hostile.
In addition some misconceptions about stop and search policy are widely held. Young people often believe that police are working to targets for numbers of people to stop and search, and that the more people an officer arrested the greater the likelihood of their getting promotion.
The Young Foundation worked with over 100 young people, community members and police officers in a series of workshops. The participants worked together to explore students’ experiences of stop and search, help them understand their rights and how it should be done, and forge a path forward for improving relationships between young people and the police.
The participants made five key recommendations for police officers conducting stop and searches:
• Avoid assumptions – young people felt that looking or dressing in a certain way made them more likely to be stopped.
• Be transparent – Police need to make sure that people understand why they are being stopped and under what category.
• Be respectful – police should be calm, polite and friendly and be careful of accusatory questions.
• Act considerately – Police should remember that young people might be worried about being judged by others on the street.
• Remember that you are in a powerful position. Police should bear in mind that these experiences shape young people’s experiences of the police service as a whole.
A young Tottenham resident said “You need to be able to turn to the police when you need help. If stop and search is done badly then the respect won’t be there and you will feel less able to turn to them.”
Tricia Hackett, Young Foundation programme lead, said “These workshops provided a safe space for power dynamics to be neutralised and learning to emerge between young people and the police on a very sensitive and personal subject”.
Paul Head, Principal and Chief Executive of College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, said “This work powerfully demonstrated that when we listen, young people have a lot to say. Too often they are not given the opportunity to have their voices heard by the people who have the power to make a difference. Opening up these discussions helped to build bridges between young people and the police.”
Notes to editors:
1. Contact: Alison Harvie on 07909 912 444 or firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The workshops were the result of a collaborative project between the College, Haringey Borough Police and the Haringey Independent Stop and Search Monitoring Group and facilitated by the Young Foundation.
3. The Young Foundation is determined to make positive social change happen. We pioneered the field of social innovation with The Open University, UpRising and Studio Schools. We work closely with individuals, communities and partners building relationships to ensure that our thinking does something, our actions matter and the changes we make together will continue to grow. (www.youngfoundation.org )
4. “Let’s talk about Stop and Search: Bringing together students, the police and community members in Tottenham” will be available to download from www.youngfoundation.org