The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) came into force on 5 April 2011. The duty covers the nine protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) uses a range of strategies to ensure compliance with the equality duty including:
In May 2011 the EHRC entered into a binding agreement with Thames Valley Police Constabulary regarding their disproportionate use of stop and search powers with black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. This followed an earlier warning given to the forces after the publication in 2010 of the Commissions report, Stop and Think. This found that some police forces were using stop and search powers in a way that was disproportionate and possibly discriminatory.
The Commission’s comprehensive review of the use of stop and search powers across England and Wales over the past 10 years showed black people were still at least six times as likely to be stopped and searched compared to white people. Asian people were around twice as likely to be stopped and searched compared to white people.
The report found that Thames Valley Police had significant and persistent race differences in their use of stop and search.
The Commission monitored the force over 18 months to see if there was:
The Commision’s intervention focused on working with the police to develop an intelligence-based use of stop and search powers rather than one based on racial stereotypes. In September 2012 the EHRC was able to end it’s formal agreement with Thames Valley Police as they have met the criteria for improvement. The force has reduced the significant and persistent race differences in stop and search. In addition, its stop and search detection rates have gone up; and there is not any apparent adverse effect on crime levels.
In June 2013 the Commission published Stop and Think Again, a new report which is the follow up to Stop and Think. The new report gives an overview of the detailed work we have done with five police forces, including Thames Valley police and as such sets out good practice examples of how these forces tackled excess and disproportionate use of the power to stop and search. The overall tone of the report is positive and shows that if stop and search is used proportionally and intelligently the police can protect the public, reduce crime and disorder and improve relations with black and ethnic minority groups. There is no evidence to suggest that targeting black and Asian people disproportionately reduces crime.
The Commission has been greatly encouraged by the efforts of the police forces involved and plans to use this work to illustrate what forces can achieve by respecting human rights and discrimination law, while making better use of stop and search across the police service. They also believe this project has created a best practice blueprint with positive measurable results for other forces to follow.
This was an example of where, through effective partnership working we were able to make a real difference in an area that wasn’t specifically included in the Duty, but which was a priority to BME groups, whilst also improving the operational performance of the force.