Improved best use of stop and search after HMIC revisits

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) today revealed the findings of a re-inspection of the 13 police forces that were not complying with three or more features of the Best Use of Stop and Search (BUSS) scheme in 2015.

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Best Use of Stop and Search re-visits

The BUSS scheme was introduced by the Home Office in 2014 to improve transparency and community involvement, in order to help increase public confidence and trust in the powers. Last year, HMIC reported 13 forces were not complying with three or more features of the scheme and, as a consequence, the Home Office suspended them from the scheme. These forces were subject to an HMIC revisit inspection in the summer of 2016.

At the time of the re-inspections between June and August, only six forces of the 13 were found to be compliant with all features of the scheme, with seven still not compliant. However, HMIC is pleased that, since the inspection, those forces have achieved full compliance meaning all 13 revisited forces now meet the criteria.

Following the revisits, HMIC has made recommendations to the Home Office and the College of Policing to consider reviewing the scheme to clarify and amend certain areas. In particular, HMIC has recommended that it is revised to allow officers of inspector to chief superintendent rank to authorise the use of no-suspicion stop and search powers under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, but only in exceptional circumstances when a senior officer is not available. HMIC has also recommended that minimum standards for monitoring the use of all stop and search powers are included in the scheme.

Her Majesty’s Inspector Mike Cunningham said:

“When we carried out revisit inspections this year, we were concerned to find that seven forces still weren’t complying with all features of the scheme. While we are encouraged that these forces have since achieved compliance, and now all 13 forces revisited are compliant, it is disappointing that it has taken so long for forces to get there; 18 months or more after volunteering to participate in the scheme.

“HMIC has made recommendations for how the scheme itself can be developed. We believe that, in very exceptional circumstances, more flexibility with safeguards would be operationally beneficial. This is specifically in regards to the authorisation of the use of no-suspicion searches, when serious violence is anticipated.

“We also recommended revising the feature of the scheme which outlines how forces should monitor the use of stop and search powers, to include minimum monitoring standards.”

The 19 forces found to be non-compliant with one or two features of the scheme in the 2015 BUSS inspection will be revisited by HMIC shortly. In addition, HMIC will consider the use of stop and search powers more widely as part of our 2017/2018 PEEL legitimacy inspections.

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Best Use of Stop and Search revisits


  • HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing to promote improvements in policing that make everyone safer, and assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
  • In 2014, the Home Office and College of Policing launched the Best Use of Stop and Search (BUSS) scheme (PDF document), with the aims of achieving greater transparency, community involvement in the use of stop and search powers and to support a more intelligence-led approach, leading to better outcomes.
  • In 2015, HMIC assessed the 43 forces’ compliance with each feature of the scheme, as part of our 2015 PEEL Legitimacy inspection. That inspection identified that only 11 forces were complying with all five features of the scheme; 19 forces were not complying with one or two features of the scheme and 13 forces were not complying with three or more features.
  • Between 24 June 2016 and 5 August 2016, HMIC reviewed force websites, the website and documents submitted to us by forces, to reassess each force’s compliance with each of the five features of the scheme. Interviews were also held with relevant senior staff in each force.
  • The 13 forces subject to a revisit inspection were:
    • Cambridgeshire;
    • Cheshire;
    • Cumbria;
    • Gloucestershire;
    • Lancashire;
    • Leicestershire;
    • Lincolnshire;
    • Northumbria;
    • Staffordshire;
    • South Wales;
    • Warwickshire;
    • West Mercia; and
    • Wiltshire.
  • For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0600.
  • HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.
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