DUP North Antrim MLA and Policing Board representative Mervyn Storey has warned against any move to dilute powers available to police officers to prevent harm, investigate crime and disrupt terrorist activity across Northern Ireland.
Responding to recent commentary in relation to the rate of stop and search recorded by the PSNI, Mr Storey said:
‘‘The DUP is strongly supportive of stop and search powers as a tool to deter, detect and investigate crime and terrorism. Independent scrutiny of stop and search authorisations under the Justice and Security Act has frequently found the use of these powers to be lawful, detailed, necessary and proportionate.
It is worth remembering that the rate of stop and search has generally declined in the past decade and the number of complaints has also reduced in recent years. This report focuses only on arrest rates as an indicator of the effectiveness of stop and search but there are actually a range of other positive outcomes recorded by the PSNI, including community resolution and penalty notices.
We fully recognise the need for robust governance arrangements for use of stop and search. The recent investment in an additional 1,956 body worn video cameras is extremely welcome and it is appropriate that these must be worn by officers during these searches. The PSNI have also established a stop and search working group for children and young people and we support a balanced approach in this particular area.
Ultimately checks and balances are needed but it is vital that police officers are not being forced into tackling crime with one hand tied behind their back. The Policing Board regularly examines these issues and as a Party we will continue to advocate for the effective and proportionate use of these operational powers moving forward