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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK


Police 'not logging stop and searches'

A former Home Office criminologist has accused several police forces of failing to keep proper records of stop-and-search incidents.

The BBC's Andrew Hosken: "Officers accused of not taking seriously their legal requirements"
Dr Marion FitzGerald, who resigned from her job as a senior criminologist two months ago, says up to 80% of incidents are not being logged.

She says provincial forces are particularly guilty and says the Metropolitan Police in London has a better record, although it is still under-recording stop-and-searches.

Dr FitzGerald says the failure to monitor such searches properly is ruining attempts to ensure that ethnic minorities are not being unfairly targeted.

She says many police officers are not taking seriously their legal obligation to record every stop-and-search they conduct, often because they cannot be bothered with the paperwork.

Black deaths

The requirement was introduced in 1984, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace) to guard against the possible abuse of police power.

Several black people have died in custody after being arrested in stop-and-search incidents.

[ image: Wayne Douglas: Died in custody after a stop-and-search incident]
Wayne Douglas: Died in custody after a stop-and-search incident
In 1995 riots broke out in Brixton, south London, after Wayne Douglas, 25, died in custody following a stop-search.

A Home Office spokesman told BBC News Online: "We accept there is under-recording of stop-and-search incidents, although we dispute the level."

He said: "We are determined that forces should properly record these incidents."

Stephen Lawrence case: Timeline of events
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, drew up an Action Plan in the wake of the Macpherson Report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London in 1993.

The report concluded there was "institutionalised racism" in the Metropolitan Police.

Commission for Racial Equality spokesman, Julia Heron, says: "Without having some form of monitoring there is no way of monitoring discrimination.

'Impossible to quantify'

"We would like to see more enforced regulations to make sure this monitoring is done in a more regimented way."

Leicestershire's Assistant Chief Constable, David Coleman, is the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on stop-and-search monitoring. He told BBC News Online: "I know Dr FitzGerald and I have a lot of respect for the work she has done in the past.

"There is evidence that officers are under-reporting stop-searches but it is impossible to put a figure on it."

'Better recording of incidents'

Mr Coleman said there was no practical way of ensuring officers logged stop-searches.

"The problem is, If an officer is on duty at night, on his own, stops someone but does not arrest them, if he does not log it and the person stopped does not pursue it there is no way of knowing if it happened," he said.

Mr Coleman said he was confident new figures out later this year would show an increase in stop-searches due to better recording of such incidents.

"Officers are getting better at monitoring this and recognise that if they don't, people will make wrong assumptions based on misleading figures," he said.

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03 Jun 99 | UK
Crime rise 'linked' to Lawrence inquiry

15 Oct 98 | UK
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