A Government watchdog has praised West Yorkshire Police for “engaging positively with the public” - but says it needs to do more on the controversial issue of stop and search.
The force was among the 36 out of 43 in the country rated as ‘good’ on the subject of legitimacy, which includes whether they operate fairly, ethically and within the law, how they engage with their communities and their use of stop and search and tasers.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary says the majority of police forces in England and Wales treat people fairly and ethically, but a lack of progress on the issue of stop and search is letting them down.
In West Yorkshire, local police teams were found to have “a good understanding of their neighbourhoods and engage positively with the public”, though their approach to dealing with people of Eastern European origin “needs to be developed”.
On the subject of stop and search, HMIC said: “West Yorkshire Police is complying with the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, however the link between the item searched for and the outcome of the search needs to be published and information about use of these powers should be more accessible.
“Some local officers are not confident about the use of these powers. However, when the powers are used, the use is mainly fair and appropriate.”
The issue of stop and search has long been controversial for the police service because of evidence certain ethnic groups are disproportionately likely to be targeted.
It emerged last year that four out of every five uses of police stop and search powers in Yorkshire result in no further action being taken.
HMIC inspectors found that the use of stop and search was declining but that police need to be given the confidence to use the policing tactic correctly.
Their report said too many forces are still not recording the reasonable grounds for stopping a person, and that in one force, almost two-thirds of records reviewed did not record this detail.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Stephen Otter, who led the inspection, said: “The majority of police forces demonstrate fair and ethical behaviour; the public expect no less.
“However, all the good work that we’ve seen forces are doing to engage with their local communities risks being undermined if they continue to fail to get stop and search right.
“This is the third time we’ve looked at stop and search in the last three years and although there is some improvement, it’s not happening fast enough. This is inexcusable given that it is one of the principal indicators of police legitimacy.”
Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins of West Yorkshire Police said: “We welcome this report, which contains some very positive comments by the HMIC about our officers and staff.
“Neighbourhood policing is at the heart of how we deliver policing in West Yorkshire and this report endorses that style and engaging approach.
“We are also pleased to see that Force’s support of its own officers and staff has been positively recognised. We believe that investing in and developing our own people is key to providing a better service to the public.
“As with any inspection process, there are some areas where more work is needed, but we are already addressing these points.
“Overall this a good report for the communities of West Yorkshire, showing that our officers and staff understand their needs and concerns.
“It is also a positive endorsement of the hard working officers and staff of West Yorkshire Police, who are committed to keeping people safe and reducing crime.”