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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 16:51 GMT
Police rethink on stop and search
Police search a man
The laws give police powers to stop and search
Police are reviewing stop and search policies amid fears they are damaging community relations, a senior officer has confirmed.

Commander Richard Gargini said the Association of Chief Police Officers wanted searches to be led more by intelligence than "appearance".

He said he was working with Metropolitan Police to develop a more sensitive approach.

Other forces in England and Wales were also rethinking tactics, he added.

Commander Gargini, who this month became the first full time national coordinator for police community relations, was speaking at a Muslim Safety Forum conference on Islamophobia.

He told the conference in East London he was aware of "strong feelings of isolation and alienation" within Britain's Muslim communities.

'Adverse impact'

He said ACPO's "ambition" over the next 12 months was to build better relations between police and Muslim communities, applying lessons learned from last year's Forest Gate raids in London, when police were criticised for heavy-handed tactics.

We believe in the police service of the UK there is a lack of interest in Islam within our own staff
Commander Richard Gargini

That meant seeking more advice from community leaders - and even sharing intelligence with them - before launching sensitive operations, he said.

But another major priority was to review the use of stop and search.

"There is a new thinking within the police service that the use of stop and search has to be very, very carefully applied," said Commander Gargini.

"It has to be led by intelligence and not by appearance - not led by the way people are, or by the communities they come from."

He said police forces around the country were now asking "Are we having an adverse impact on police and community relationships?"

And the end result could be a reduction in the number of searches being carried out - but he stressed the policy would not be scrapped altogether.

'Balance'

Speaking after the meeting, he said Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who leads the Metropolitan Police's anti-terror fight, was "warming" to a change of policy.

"I am working with him to look at ways of making that tactic far more positive and the outcome far more positive," said Commander Gargini

Police had to adopt a more "intelligent" attitude to the one advocated by government ministers in the wake of the 7 July London bombs, said Commander Gargini.

"There has to be a balance between bringing communities with us - sharing power with them - and alienating them by using tactics which are unhelpful," he told reporters.

Under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, officers have the power to stop and search people in an area seen as being at risk from terrorism even if they are not suspected of any breach of the law.

Figures show the use of the power against those of Asian appearance has increased since 11 September 2001 and community leaders say this has alienated Britain's Muslims, helping the cause of extremists.

"We know the levels of trust and confidence that the community has in the police has gone down," said Azad Ali, chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum, which advises police on Islamic issues.

Commander Gargini also used his speech to call for better training for officers to help them understand the Muslim community.

"We believe in the police service of the UK there is a lack of interest in Islam within our own staff," he told the conference.

He said this manifested itself in "insensitive use of language" and "ill informed assumptions that Islamic teachings are inherently extremist."

He added: "We need to tackle that within the police service."

'Big price'

Commander Gargini's speech follows comments last month by Andy Hayman, who questioned the value of stop and search, saying few charges arose from the policy.

"It is very unlikely that a terrorist is going to be carrying bomb-making equipment around... in the street," he told a London police authority hearing.

And it was "a big price to pay" given some people feel unfairly targeted, he said.


SEE ALSO
Terror laws 'hurt race relations'
08 Jul 04 |  UK Politics
Ethnic groups 'accept searches'
01 Aug 05 |  London

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