Police chiefs have proposed an expansion of officers’ stop and search powers by dropping the “reasonable grounds” condition required for carrying out the checks.
Officers want to lower the level of suspicion a police officer needs in order to carry out a stop and search, as concern continues to rise over increased knife attacks.
Currently, the law suggests officers need to have “reasonable grounds” for having suspicions about a person before they can use their power to stop and search.
Advisors to home secretary Sajid Javid have been conducting talks with senior officers in the last two weeks to discuss the plans, which would apply to England and Wales.
Mr Javid recently urged Scotland Yard to make full use of police powers, including stop and search, as its officers seek to end the bloodshed.
Adrian Hanstock, the deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police and national lead on stop and search for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, confirmed the stop and search expansion plans to the Guardian.
“There are a lot of calls for officers to do more stop and search. But the current individual threshold that officers have to meet is very tight and precise,” Mr Hanstock told the newspaper.
“So is there any appetite to reduce that threshold where [an] officer has a genuine fear that the person is at risk, or there is a safeguarding threat, or is a risk to others?
“If that officer does not have sufficient grounds or X-ray vision to see they are carrying a weapon, and they are concerned they may have something to cause harm, that should trigger a search.
“They will still have to record what has concerned them.”
The plans would make it more likely that those found with a knife during a search would be required to undertake an education programme rather than face the courts.
However, there are fears the plans could reignite debate surrounding police discrimination against ethnic communities, civil liberties and the role of stop and search in tackling crime.
According to the Guardian, stop and search is one of the most controversial powers used by police as black people are around nine times more likely to be targeted for its use than white people.
The majority of people who are searched turn out to be innocent and Prime Minister Theresa May has previously voiced concerns that it diminished the trust of ethnic minorities in the police.
Accepting the plans would trigger controversy, Mr Hancock told the paper: “I think it would raise concerns with civil liberties groups that we could be using this as an excuse to search more people.”