There has been 240 per cent rise in Stop Searches conducted by Dyfed-Powys Police in the space of one year.
The annual Stop and Search report, published by the police force, revealed that Dyfed-Powys Police conducted 9,129 Stop Searches, inclusive of vehicles during the financial year of 2022/23, compared to 2,686 for the financial year of 2021/22. This is an increase of 240 per cent.
The report has prompted Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn to seek assurances from Chief Constable Dr Richard Lewis that Dyfed-Powys Police exercise their stop and search powers ethically and proportionally.
Mr Llywelyn reviews the exercise of Stop and Search as part of his responsibility to maintain public confidence and trust in policing. Earlier this year in May, when Dyfed-Powys Police delivered their annual report on stop and search powers to the Commissioner at a Policing Board meeting, Mr Llywelyn sought reassurances that there are measures being taken by Dyfed-Powys Police to ensure the effective and appropriate use of Stop and Search.
After being appointed as Chief Constable in 2021, Dr Richard Lewis committed to ensuring that the Dyfed-Powys area becomes hostile to those who deal drugs, placing this commitment as one of his three priorities for the Force. The Stop and Search annual report show that the most utilised grounds for search during 2022/23 was Section 23: Misuse of Drugs Act. This accounted for 71 per cent of the 9,129 searches carried out within the Dyfed-Powys Police force area. 16 per cent of these drug related stops resulted in an arrest.
26 per cent of all searches carried out by Dyfed-Powys Police resulted in a positive outcome. Positive outcomes are sanctioned detections but also take account of restorative and reparative outcomes (community resolutions).
93 per cent of all interactions during Stop and Search encounters included the use of Body Worn Video (BWV) to record interactions between officers and members of the public. BWV are used to visually document the process and to provide transparency and protection both to the officers and the individual(s) concerned.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “Since the publication of the Force’s stop and search annual report, I have often been challenged on the data it shows, and whether or not Dyfed-Powys exercise their powers ethically and proportionally.
“As well as during the Policing Board meeting in May this year, it was referenced at a recent Policing Accountability Board meeting this month and a meeting of the Policing and Crime Panel.
“I understand that some members of the public might have concerns having seen the significant increase in the number of searches being carried out by Dyfed-Powys Police. However, I am confident, and have been reassured by the Chief Constable, that despite the increase, Dyfed-Powys Police do exercise their powers responsibly, ethically and proportionally.
“The increase in the frequency of searches being carried out is not a reflection of indiscriminate or biased targeting. Instead, it demonstrates an unwavering dedication to maintaining public safety through proactive approaches.
“The geography of the Dyfed-Powys area is unique compared to other Forces within England and Wales. It borders three other police forces and as such, there is a lot of cross-border activity in terms of visitors and travelling criminality.
“The level of scrutiny around stop and search records is extensive and thorough. Police forces operate under strict guidelines that prioritise the principle of proportionality. Each stop and search is based on reasonable grounds of suspicion, and officers are required to provide clear rationale for their actions. The Force maintain comprehensive records of all stop and search operations, ensuring accountability and enabling us to address any issues that may arise.
“Not only does my Office scrutinise and review the records, but they are also independently reviewed by members of the public who volunteer on both our Independent Advisory Group, and the Quality Assurance Panel.
“The extensive reviews that take place around stop and search should reassure the public that there is a commitment to learn from past experiences. The feedback and recommendations from reviews allow the Force to continuously evaluate procedures, outcomes, and training methods, so that they can refine their approach and minimise any potential misuse or bias”.
Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed to Mr Llywelyn that every search record is reviewed by a Sergeant to ensure that the quality of the search record is to the required standard and the grounds and search power used are accurate. Dip samples of search records involving Black and Minority Ethnic people are also regularly conducted to ensure that there is no specific disproportionality.
Dyfed-Powys Police also said that they recognise that when an individual is stopped, it can be a very traumatic time for them. Whether it is their first ever encounter with a police officer or they are from an Ethnic Minority group, Dyfed-Powys Police assured PCC Llywelyn that they have strategies and processes in place to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and respectfully.
Chief Inspector Chris Neve, Dyfed-Powys Police’s lead for stop and search said “Stop and search can play a really important role in the detection and prevention of crime and I hope the communities in which we serve understand that.
“I am however cognisant that our communities want to see us use this power in a fair and effective way in order for us to tackle issues that they regularly encounter in their village or town across the Dyfed-Powys Police area.
“To that end, I can reassure the public that as a force, we now have stringent measures in place which have created regular and effective scrutiny around our use of stop and search, which include both internal and external scrutiny panels, as well as the external publication of our stop and search data.
“These forums now allow us to properly understand what is working well, not so well and how we can embed a fully transparent process which provides confidence to those we serve.
“We will continue to use the powers we have available to us in order to bring to justice those who seek to bring about harm across the force area, but in doing so we will continue to ensure we work hard to maintain the trust and confidence of our public.
Stop and Search records will next be reviewed by the Dyfed-Powys Quality Assurance Panel, and the Independent Advisory Group in September 2023 and will be raised for review in Policing Board again later this year.