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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Police cautious on taking names
Stop and search
Police stop and search powers remain contentious
Recording the personal details of people stopped in the street would be deeply unpopular, rank and file police leaders believe.

The Metropolitan Police Federation said trials found 70% of people stopped were unwilling to give details.

Chairman Glen Smyth said a similar system in London, scrapped in 1984, was so unpopular it was considered a factor in the 1981 Brixton riots,

Currently officers only take down details of those stopped and searched.

They do not record the names and addresses of those who are stopped without being searched.

Unpopular

Pilots of a renewed proposal from the 1999 Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence proposal have been carried out by various police forces around the country.

The government has said it will extend the policy to cover the whole of England and Wales.

But Conservative leader Michael Howard has said his party would scrap the move if elected.

In a speech outlining his party's policies on law and order, he said scrapping it would help free officers from red tape and political correctness.

It would appear to be no more popular now than it was then
Glen Smyth

Mr Smyth said the pilot schemes had found the policy was as unpopular as ever.

He said: "Seven out of 10 people stopped are not prepared to wait around and provide these details. It would appear to be no more popular now than it was then.

"I suppose people feel that if they haven't done anything wrong, then why should they give their details. The right to a private life is quite a reasonable one after all."

As it would not be compulsory for people stopped to give their details, he said this would mean the figures collected would not give a representative picture of who had been stopped.

Red tape

Mr Smyth said the red tape involved in implementing the recommendation would cost hundreds of pounds each year in London alone.

He said: "We understand why they recommended what they recommended. If it was going to achieve what they wanted to achieve then fine but it hasn't and I don't think it will."

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) also said it was concerned about the level of bureaucracy involved in recording every time someone is stopped.

But a spokeswoman said ACPO understood the value of recording stops and said the rights of the individual needed to be "balanced" with the need to protect the public.

She told BBC News Online: "The government has committed to implementing it and although we have some concerns about the bureaucracy, we will work that through."

It's in the best interests of the police so they can show that they are not behaving in a discriminatory manner
Barry Hugill

Civil liberties group Liberty said Mr Howard was just trying to make "cheap headlines" and said recording stops was in everybody's interests.

Spokesman Barry Hugill told BBC News Online: "It's in the best interests of the police so they can show that they are not behaving in a discriminatory manner."

He said he did not believe Mr Howard's assertion that recording stops would create an enormous burden of red tape.

He said: "If the police stop you they already make a note in any case. It's what the police have always done."

Protection

He acknowledged that some people might consider it an infringement of their rights to be asked for their details.

But he said: "I think we've moved on and it's understood now why it's done. It's to show that policing is as it should be."

Some people decide to stop and search you for no reason - you need a valid reason to stop someone but some officers don't understand that
Peckham resident

Meanwhile. on the streets of Peckham, south London, many were keen for the Macpherson proposal to be implemented.

One resident told the BBC: "Many of the young boys out there, they're not doing anything. Maybe they look suspicious but they're not.

"I've a brother and he doesn't do anything and police will stop and search him for no apparent reason."

One man, who said he had been stopped several times by the police, said it was vital that a record is kept of each incident, to protect the rights of those who are stopped.

He said: "Some people decide to stop and search you for no reason. You need a valid reason to stop someone but some officers don't understand that."


SEE ALSO:
Racism fears 'holding back police'
15 Dec 99  |  UK News
Howard outlines anti-crime plans
10 Aug 04  |  Politics
Met Police still 'racist'
22 Apr 03  |  London


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