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Police prevent scrutiny of disputed stop and search data

THE scandal of police officers recording bogus stop and searches has deepened after the single force refused to give geographical breakdowns for the 500,000 procedures allegedly carried out.

Police Scotland say they use the stop and search procedure to catch people with knives, drugs and stolen goodsPhotograph: Steve Welsh
Police Scotland say they use the stop and search procedure to catch people with knives, drugs and stolen goodsPhotograph: Steve Welsh

Police Scotland said releasing the number for areas such as Greater Glasgow and Edinburgh would be "harmful". The force added that "misleading conclusions" could be drawn from disclosure, a claim blasted as "patronising" by an MSP.

Stop and search, a policy being pushed by Chief Constable Stephen House, is intended to catch people with knives, drugs and stolen goods.

In the first nine months of Police Scotland, a massive 519,213 searches were recorded, with a failure rate of more than 80%.

But former police officers have told the Sunday Herald the figure is meaningless as constables are recording searches that were never carried out, in order to meet targets.

The sources said the computerised form for searches does not include the name and address of the individual searched, which results in dummy entries being typed in.

The former officers said the ­behaviour was directly related to pressure police felt from their bosses to boost the search figures.

House, in an interview with the Sunday Herald last week, said "some" searches are being "made up".

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said recently: "Because we have this bizarre approach in terms of stopping and searching, we have police officers that are making numbers up."

Following the allegations from the ex-officers, the Sunday Herald asked Police Scotland for a breakdown of the 519,213 searches in each of the 14 divisions. Local data could show which divisions have the largest number of searches per head of population, and reveal suspicious discrepancies. But the national force has refused to release the information, citing a review by the Scottish Police Authority. Police Scotland claimed: "Premature public disclosure of the information requested would detrimentally impact on these sensitive deliberations which have yet to reach a conclusion.

"Disclosure would not only be harmful in that it would interfere with the findings of their inquiry, but it is also likely to lead to ­misleading conclusions being drawn by non-expert users on the current state of police stop search activity."

It has also come to light that a crucial safeguard over stop and search which is used in England, where an individual should get a "written record" of the search at the time, does not exist in Scotland.

LibDem MSP Alison McInnes said: "It is astonishing that Police ­Scotland seem to be trying to hush up this information for PR purposes.

"To suggest that information on stop and search can't be released because the public might draw their own conclusions is both patronising and arrogant."

John Finnie, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: "The refusal to be open about the figures has the potential to undermine the longstanding excellent relations between the police and the public."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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