DORSET Police has defended its use of stop and search, after statistics were published suggesting that black people were 31 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in Dorset than white people.

Stop and search figures relating to the period from April 2018 to March 2019 published by the government showed that 62 out of every 1,000 black people in Dorset were stopped and searched, the highest rate of stop and search of an ethnic group out of any police force in the country.

When compared with two in every 1,000 white people being stopped and searched in Dorset, this was the biggest difference between ethnic groups out of any police force in the country.

However, Dorset Police has claimed that the context behind the figures is important to remember, due to the high number of visitors to the county.

A spokesperson said: "Dorset Police adopted the ‘Best Use of Stop Search’ and in 2019/20 of the 2,105 searches which were undertaken, 153 were individuals who identified as black and over half of those people were not residents of Dorset. This is an important context to recognise because figures are based on the resident population rather than visitors and therefore can exaggerate the disproportionality rate.

"Having said this we recognise that any disproportionality can raise concerns and affect people’s perception of policing and, in Dorset, we are working hard to do all we can to ensure our use of stop and search is lawful, justified and necessary.

"Since October 2017 we have been working with an independent scrutiny panel which was established by the Police & Crime Commissioner to ensure that our use of stop and search is fair and held to account. The panel review grounds, outcomes and a small sample of the body worn video available for stop and searches. The overwhelming response from this panel is the activity of our police officers is proportionate and justified.

"In 2019 we undertook a review of how we use stop and search, alongside an independent review commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner. We have been implementing recommendations of these reviews, including strict supervisory reviews of each stop and search along with unconscious bias training for our staff. We have also introduced a stop and search board chaired by the Deputy Chief Constable to ensure we are progressive in the use of the tactic.

"We have always worked hard to ensure that our communities and residents feel supported and protected by our officers and staff and we will continue learning lessons to improve the service we offer, especially to vulnerable communities and those who suffer prejudice and racism in their everyday lives."

The full response from Dorset Police can be seen here.