I was stopped and asked to account for my actions by a police officer last year. During that encounter with the police I feel that I was misled by the officer who suggested that I had to give him my name and address. Police stopping people, asking them to account for their actions and then filling in a stop/encounter form appears to me to be a really common way for people to come into contact with the police, so I think that ensuring that the process is properly handled is critical to maintaining a positive impression of the police in the eyes of the public.
While I appreciate that in an ideal situation police officers would behave properly and not misrepresent their powers to demand names and addresses I feel that in the case of “Stop and Account” it would be appropriate to give officers guidance on the language they should use when asking the questions required by the form.
I would suggest wording such as:
“You don’t have to give me your name and address, but if you would like to provide it I will write it on this form, which I will give you a copy of”.
I hope you can see how this is quite different from the language used when I was stopped which was:
“Now I have stopped you and asked you to account for your actions we MUST fill in this form”.
How the questions are asked might well affect other answers too, for example the policeman asked if I: “would describe myself as a white British male”. To ensure that the “self-defined” ethnicity recording is effective and accurate I feel it would be desirable to suggest the police do not prompt the person they have stopped for a particular answer it almost defies the point of the question.
I have a number of questions about the Stop and Account procedure, the answers to which I believe ought to be easily accessible by the public:
- Are all stop and account and stop – search incidents entered into a database? PS 1258 Jason Wragg told Cambridge Council’s North area Committee on the 20/09/2007 the answer to this was: “Yes”.
- What is the database used for? Is it just used to monitor stops and stop – searches, or is this information correlated with other data on areas and individuals?
- How long does a record of an individual’s encounter / stop search remain on the database?
- Is an individual’s explanation for their actions recorded on the database? (It is not included on the encounter record given to people who have been stopped and asked to account for their actions.).
- Is a record of an encounter / stop search / stop check in Cambridgeshire entered on to the Police National Computer or otherwise accessible by police nationwide?
I would like to a person’s explanation for their actions recorded on the encounter record they are given; this would give some assurance that it has been recorded properly by the police.
I have sent these comments to Kevin Wilkins (County Councillor and Police Authority member with a specialisation in Cambridge City) and Olive Main, Independent Member of the Police Authority.
Update: On Tuesday the 29th of January 2008 I attended a local meeting with the Police in the Meadows Community Centre, Arbury, Cambridge there Stop and Account took up about half the two hour discussion, its operation was still causing major problems in North Cambridge. Neither Olive Main or Kevin Wilkins have replied to me.