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Research Questions

  1. Was the intervention delivered as intended?
  2. What were the main implementation issues?
  3. To what extent did peers, supervisors, middle managers and senior leaders act as a facilitator or barrier to change?
  4. How was the training course perceived by officers, and how did it reportedly influence their stop and search practices?
  5. Did trained officers appear to apply their learning in practice and, if so, how?
  6. How did the police and public interact during encounters after the training, and what factors were associated with better quality encounters?

In 2014, the College of Policing entered into a partnership with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to develop new National Policing Curriculum learning standards on stop and search, and to design related learning materials. The College, in consultation with the EHRC and police stakeholders, developed a training intervention that was piloted across six police forces in England from August 2015 through October 2015. The piloting was undertaken with the intention of informing and supporting a national roll-out of training to all officers in England and Wales from 2016/17, and to develop an evidence base around the impact of training on improving stop and search practice and the use of the relevant powers. The training pilot was implemented as a randomised control trial (RCT), whereby approximately 110 officers from each participating force were assigned at random to the treatment group (i.e. given the training), while another 110 officers were assigned at random to a control group (i.e. not given the training). Alongside an impact evaluation which forms the basis of a separate report, the College also commissioned and supported a process evaluation of the RCT, which is the subject of this report and was undertaken separately from the impact evaluation. The process evaluation fieldwork took place from August to December 2015, and examined only the treatment side of the RCT, looking at training implementation issues, perceptions of key stakeholders and trainers, and behaviour and experiences of trained officers.

Key Findings

Despite general agreement about the goals of the training, there was a lack of clarity about how they were to be achieved.

  • The evaluation found that while there was general agreement amongst national stakeholders and training designers on the high-level goals of the training — improving stop and search practice, reducing levels of race disproportionality and decrease the overall use of stop and search powers, there was a lack of clarity about how these goals were to be achieved in practice. Nevertheless, the trainers provided a 'good-faith', if varied interpretation of the training, focusing on improving practical legal decision-making and improving recording of 'reasonable grounds' for conducting a search.

A number of substantial implementation issues were identified with the training.

  • These included the use of guidance rather than a manual for training delivery, differences of opinion on the definition of a 'fair and effective' search, and the new guidance on the smell of cannabis being insufficient to justify a search.

Officers attending the training were largely positive about it, despite concerns about some of its content.

  • Participants were mostly positive about the format of the training and quality of the trainers, although many had reservations about the definition of a 'fair and effective' search and perceived changes to 'reasonable grounds' for a search. In observation of 30 shifts across the six participating forces, officers appeared to follow the correct stop and search process in most cases. It was found that officer behaviour was related to the characteristics and demeanour of suspects; on the other hand, procedurally fair officer behaviour was associated with a positive change in suspect attitudes during encounters.

Recommendations

  • For national roll-out, a clear and unambiguous statement of purpose for the training needs to be developed and successfully communicated to all stakeholders in advance of the training.
  • Core skills that are important for stop and search appear to be connected to the wider skills needed for better-quality police encounters with the public.
  • Officers' acceptance of the training messages could be improved if there were explicit middle- and high-ranking support for the messages within each force.
  • If the 'fair and effective' definition is retained, trainers will require specific tools to communicate and teach it.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Was the intervention delivered as intended?

  • Chapter Three

    What were the main implementation issues?

  • Chapter Four

    To what extent did peers, supervisors, middle managers and senior leaders act as a facilitator or barrier to change?

  • Chapter Five

    How was the training course perceived by officers, and how did it reportedly influence their stop and search practices?

  • Chapter Six

    Did trained officers apply their learning in practice, and how did they interact with the public during encounters after the training?

  • Chapter Seven

    Implications for training re-design and implementation

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the College of Policing and conducted by RAND Europe.

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