The Home Secretary has told the Police Federation of England and Wales that police officers should never feel intimidated about using stop and search.
In an exclusive online interview with John Apter, the Federation national chair, Priti Patel described stop and search as an essential policing tool and said families who have lost loved ones to crime want it to be used more widely.
“You and I have sat with officers where we have met families who lives have been torn apart and devastated when their sons and daughters have been murdered on the streets of our country through weaponry. I don’t really call them knives – I call them weapons, because they are weapons,” the Home Secretary said.
She added: “I have had so many parents say to me ‘why are we not using more stop and search? My son would be alive, my daughter would be alive today, if there was more use of stop and search if we were absolutely pulling these weapons off the streets.”
Confirming her support for stop and search, she said: ‘But stop and search absolutely is a crucial tool in policing. I think it will be a sorry state of affairs, quite frankly, if police officers feel intimidated to use one of these fundamental tools that they are well trained to use.”
Ms Patel also condemned attacks on police officers and other blue light workers, particularly over recent months, saying, they were ‘reprehensible’: “Look at the amazing work our emergency workers have been doing during the pandemic but we’ve seen them being spat at, coughed at and abused. It is just abhorrent and appalling and I find it extraordinary to think people think it’s acceptable.
“I’ve seen the horrible scarring of the impact of assault and I’m speaking on the day a year since the murder of PC Andrew Harper. There should be strong, firm and just sentences for these people and I will look through various means of legislation around maximum sentences.”
John then asked her if she thought the Government had expected too much from policing during the coronavirus pandemic, describing it as ‘an unprecedented time’.
She replied: “We police by consent and officers here in this country are part of the communities they serve which makes it very different and important compared to other places in the world.
“The police had exceptional powers during Covid – fixed penalties, the famous ‘four Es’ which I suspect will be in the training manual in decades to come. We have seen the pressures during the pandemic but the ways of working have changed and there are some really great things that we can build on post-Covid.”
Ms Patel also discussed the Police Covenant, the ‘highly damaging and selective’ effect of video clips posted on social media vilifying police officers, and her desire to continue working closely with the Federation, adding: “Great policing defines the type of society we have. Day in, day out, I’m overwhelmed by not just police officers’ bravery but their humanity.”
The Home Secretary was interviewed by the national chair as part of a new ‘The chair asks’ feature for Police magazine.