As a Campaigner one of my focuses is “Stop n Search and the way in which it is administered by the Police and seeking answers as to the disproportionalities that currently exist.
Birmingham West and Central Local Policing unit for which I sit on their Stop n Search Scrutiny Committee, have agreed to lay observations whilst Police Officer’s are out performing their duties.
Therefore, on a Tuesday night I agreed to join Sgt. Dave Gregory and Sgt. Alex Roobottom on patrol in the City Centre, between 6pm and 10pm.
Having had a briefing at 6pm we went out at 6.30pm in the Dale end area of Birmingham city centre which was very busy as one would expect.
The issues in this area to my understanding was Anti-Social Behaviour and shop-lifting. Although once the Officer’s were on foot patrol walking into shops their interaction with the pedestrians of all ages were good despite some funny stares at times.
However, within 10 minutes was the first incident of the evening, where a Security Guard was struggling with a shoplifter outside of Boots. Sgt. Roobottom gave chase after the man who had run off whilst Sgt. Gregory recovered personal items that he left at the scene.
Minutes later it was confirmed that the suspect had been detained and was under arrest for stealing a bottle of perfume.
Following this we moved on and it was decided to have a walk through Martineau Sqaure and down the steps back into Lower Bull Street where at the bottom a man was observed facing into a corner smoking with one hand held out. He was approached by the Officer’s and the item in his hand which was in public view was removed being asked “ what is this then?”.
It was cannabis which the man admitted was his and he claimed that he had recently arrived from in the UK from Spain and did not realise that possession of cannabis was illegal. The Officer’s did explain that they had to search him and why and after a little protest he allowed them to search him and despite his assurance that he had no further cannbis they found a further very small amount in a plastic bag.
This was admittedly text book stop n search not only with regard to the way in was conducted but also the clear reasons for the search, to which end this was dealt with by way of a street cautioned.
The night continued into Bull Street talking to a little gathering outside the bookmakers and then a walk around the German Market with a visit to the control centre.
Returning to Lower Bull Street we came an elderly polish Man who had been discharged from hospital, following being knocked down by a car and suffering broken bones, who was homeless and was allocated bed and breakfast by the Birmingham City Council, but had no money or means of getting there. Being vulnerable transportation was arranged for him. On our way back to the van we were approached by a man who claimed that a man carrying a white carrier bag had stolen his mobile phone, however, despite trying to see this man he was pointing too, it turned out to be rather mysterious, with the complainant not wanting to formally report it following a 20minute search of the area.
Overall, as useful exercise of experiencing engagement from a different perspective and it will be interesting to observe other areas such as Aston, Lozells and Handsworth in comparison with the City Centre.
The Officer’s were cooperative and I think they were impressed with the fact that I lasted the pace.
My only hope is that despite the current economic changes being faced by West Midlands police that this commencement of transparency will continue, as this is not a staged observation it is actually observing and scrutinising Officer’s whilst they are carrying out their duties, which can only be the way forward to building trust and confidence.
14th December 2015