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Searches spark complaints rise; Allegations against police on the up.

Byline: By TOM MULLEN

THE number of complaints made about police stop-and-search incidents has risen by nearly a quarter, a report revealed today.

Police forces in England and Wales received 536 complaints about stop and search in the last financial year, up from 434, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said.

Figures released earlier this year showed police carried out 955,000 stop and searches in 2006/07, up 9%.

The data comes after Northumbria Police Chief Constable Mike Craik launched new stop-and-search tactics as part of the force's Get Tough on Knives campaign.

The clampdown on knife crime has seen teams of officers using hand-held metal detectors to search people suspected of carrying a knife.

Since the start of the campaign on July 24, neighbourhood police teams have carried out more than 173 stop-and-search actions. At the end of August 39 knives had been recovered.

Northumbria Police recorded 591 complaints in 2006/7 and 603 complaints in 2007/8 - an increase of 2%.

Opponents of stop and search say it unfairly targets minority groups, but the recent spate of knife crimes has led to greater use of the powers.

Black people are seven times more likely to be stopped as white people, Ministry of Justice statistics showed.

In total, 43 forces across the country received 28,963 complaints, ranging from impoliteness to assault. Most concerned failures to investigate crime properly or abusive behaviour.

Officers from the Association of Chief Police Officers said the figures needed to be seen "in the context of more than 950,000 stop and searches carried out annually in England and Wales".

Craig Mackay, chief constable of Cumbria Constabulary, who leads ACPO on stop and search policing, said: "Used fairly, stop and search has proven to be a powerful tool for tackling and preventing crime."

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: "The overall number of complaints on stop and search last year represents less than 0.5% of the overall numbers of searches."

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 25, 2008
Words:334
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