Police ‘making up’ stop and search results

Critics say police are encouraged to carry out stops-and-searches as they are a 'performance indicator'. Picture: Susan Burrell
Critics say police are encouraged to carry out stops-and-searches as they are a 'performance indicator'. Picture: Susan Burrell
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POLICE officers are “making up” numbers to boost stop-and-search statistics, the leader of Scotland’s police union has claimed.

Official figures show a huge number of incidents where stop-and-search powers have been used since the creation of a single police force. Critics claim officers are under pressure because the number of stop-searches has been made a “key performance indicator”.

It came as the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Stephen House, reportedly admitted that “some” stop and searches were “made up” by officers.

Having said that any officer caught falsifying figures would be sacked, he conceded it would be “naive” to think it did not happen, and was quoted as saying: “Well, yeah, some of them are being made up. You’re not suggesting the majority are.”

A total of 529,213 stops and searches was said to have been carried out between April and December last year.

But Calum Steele, chief executive of the Scottish Police Federation, dismissed the idea officers had searched ten per cent of the population. He told a fringe meeting at the Scottish Conservative conference in Edinburgh: “If that was genuinely the case you would be hearing about it in every shop you went into, in your restaurants, in your pubs. You would be hearing nothing other than the fact you were living in an oppressive police state.

“Because we have this bizarre approach in terms of stopping and searching, we have police officers that are making numbers up. “We have not searched 500,000 of Scotland’s citizens – I am telling you now, that has not happened.”

Unnamed former police officers have claimed stop-and-search numbers had been “invented”. Edinburgh Conservative councillor Iain Whyte, who sits on the Scottish Police Authority and spoke at the same fringe meeting, said: “It was an unusual claim for someone in a knowledgeable position to make in a public forum.”

Cllr Whyte said the statistics did not necessarily suggest half a million Scots had been subjected to stop-and-search because some people could have been stopped and searched multiple times.

However, he said he had raised questions about stop-and-search at SPA board meetings. “My focus has been to ensure that stop-and-search was being targeted appropriately and encouraging the force to drive up the proportion of times it leads to a positive outcome.”
He said colleagues on the police authority were undertaking in-depth scrutiny of stop-and-search and he was sure they would be speaking to the federation.

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said stop-and-search was an effective tactic which helped keep drugs and weapons from the streets.

4273 weapons

THE high number of stops and searches is one of the concerns about the operation of Police Scotland, which has been in existence for almost a year now.Research revealed police here were using stop-and-search four times more than in England. Figures show around one in five searches produce results, with drugs, weapons and alcohol seized by officers. A total of 4273 weapons were seized in 2013 as a result of stops and searches.

In Edinburgh, there were 23,577 stops and searches between April and December last year.