The use of the controversial ‘stop and search’ tactic by South Yorkshire Police has increased by more than 270 per cent in five years, a Freedom of Information request has shown.
The request shows that the measure was used by the police force 14,504 times across the region from April 2019 to February 2020, compared to 3,890 in the 2015-16 financial year.
This is despite serious and consistent criticism of ‘stop and search’ by community and civil liberties groups, who say that since its inception it has disproportionately targeted those from BAME communities.
Last year, a House of Commons briefing paper found that BAME individuals were nine-and-a-half times more likely to be stopped than white people during 2017/18.
Theresa May’s Government released new guidance in March 2019, relaxing the rules on ‘no suspicion’ searches. This meant that senior officers no longer needed to sign off on searches, and that less prior knowledge of potential incidents was necessary.
South Yorkshire was one of seven police forces where the relaxed guidance was implemented initially, with Boris Johnson widening it across the nation when he became Prime Minister last summer.
The comparison between 2015/16 and this financial year is even starker when compared to 2016/17 and 2017/18, when the figures dropped to between 2,381 and 2,030 respectively, before more than tripling to over 6,330 in 2018-19.
The total number doubled again for this financial year up until February, to 14,504 across the region.
Of the four districts in South Yorkshire, the use of ‘stop and search’ has consistently been most common in Sheffield, and has risen from 1,206 in 2016/17 (the first year for which district-level data is available), to 5,376 this year.
Barnsley, Rotherham and particularly Doncaster have also seen increases over the course of the last five years.
Based on the latest Government guidance, the trend in South Yorkshire Police’s use of ‘stop and search’ seems to be following the national trend, but the loosening of regulations have been a point of contention for groups who have previously criticised the use of the tactic.
South Yorkshire Police declined to comment.