Police stops as a part of strategies and officers’ efficiency measure
In some police units, police stops are regarded as the main part of strategies that are focused on reducing crime or preventing disorder. Police stops are considered by some police managers as less intrusive powers that could be performed on discretionary basis in almost any situation. Therefore, police stops may be designated as initial powers that could present a starting point for initiating other police powers. Some police managers recommend more frequent use of stops in order to enhance security level.
As a consequence of such approach, in some police units, officers’ efficiency is measured by the number of persons stopped. Police managers are putting a pressure on police officers to perform as many police stops as they can, without focusing on some particular features, locations or periods of time that could be connected with crime or disorder. This surely means that known suspects with criminal records will often be stopped. But if a police officer does not find any formerly known perpetrator on the street, or any suspicious person, he or she will probably choose any citizen that could look suspicious. Such approach results in a higher rate of innocent citizens being stopped without any particular reason, but simply due to a bureaucratic approach to police tasks.
In addition, such activities are resulting with increased number of police stops without any particular effect on crime reduction or security level. While police stops are in some strategies presented as the main barrier against crime and insecurity, the fact is that it is not proven if they achieve effects. Finally, even though certain police officers may have negative attitude on such practice, they are discouraged in expressing it by knowing that their promotion could depend on their results, including the number of police stops performed. How could police officers on their own initiate changes of such practice if other involved subjects, particularly citizens, do not express their disapproval with such practice?
Checking ID of a journalist
A well-known journalist (chief editor of famous web portal) was approached by police officers with a request to check her identity. She was surprised with the demand since her identity was known due to her presence in media and that there were other ways to check her identity.
This case is rather peculiar, especially because the person concerned has a distinct combination of name and surname that is very rare in the whole country, and almost certainly there is no any other person with the identical name and surname. Moreover, it is very unlikely that any hypothetical person with similar name and surname would have the same profession in journalism. Only after the journalist concerned in this case complained to the police, it was officially explained that reasons for such identity check was to collect data for civil suit that will be taken against her. Civil action against this journalist was initiated by one local politician (a head of the county) who held that some of her texts violated his reputation.
On one side, it is possible to point out that there were other ways to check the journalist’s data using official police databases with personal data and photos. In that case there would be no real need to approach her and to check her identity in a way which could leave a feeling of oppression. Such standpoint is based on estimation that there is no other person with the similar name and surname in journalism, which makes this journalist’s identity notorious. On the opposite side, it is possible to argument that, because of objectivity and coherent law performance, that all persons should be treated in the same manner.
There is a legal provision in the Police Powers and Authorities Act that allows the police officers to gather information for civil suits. Besides that, in the Code on Police Officer Practice it was not written (at that time) that identity check could be performed on any other way except to personally approach the person and to check ID documents. But there are also other legal principles that guide the police practice, such as the principle of proportionality or necessity. What is your opinion on this case?