Continuing a-PACE – Dr John Topping, Queen’s University
In 2018, a small-scale programme of work examining the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s stop and search procedures, was agreed and costed at £5,000. The overall aim of the research was to examine the use of stop and search from the perspective of Police Service of Northern Ireland officers as they progressed from the student officer development programme, through to deployment in districts over a twelve-month period. The research was centred specifically on PACE-type powers and did not examine issues related to the use of Justice and Security Act or Terrorism Act powers.
Out of the projected 26 student officers starting the student officer development programme in May 2018, approximately 12 were selected to participate in the research. This was done on a representative basis, including factors such as gender, age etc. and further balanced against districts to which new officers where to be deployed in order to capture urban / rural issues, along with the various environments in which they will be based.
Summary of key issues and recommendations:
- Police Service of Northern Ireland delivers high-quality practical stop and search training for student officers, but more attention to historical and contextual detail on use of the power would help inform officer understanding of the powers;
- There exists a strong organisational culture in Police Service of Northern Ireland which enables and encourages the use of stop and search powers;
- Internal monitoring and oversight of stop and search powers is overly focused on ‘volume’ by officers rather than outcomes or community impacts;
- Bound up in the pressure to use stop and search, officers and supervisors have limited capacity to appreciate the community impact of the power;
- Bar the present research, there exists virtually no ongoing, external challenge to the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s use of the powers, such as through Independent Advisory Groups;
- Police Service of Northern Ireland need to revisit how PACE Code of Practice A, and more specifically the UNCRC, are actively applied and monitored as part of stop and search practice.