Fife police under fire for briefing pupils without notes

Alison McInnes MSP

Police officers in Fife have come under criticism after it emerged they briefed schoolkids on stop and search with no fixed script and only one page of notes.

Police Scotland has faced national scrutiny for its use of stop and search, which the United Nations human rights committee has described as “disproportionate”.

Officers visited 19 high schools, three colleges and St Andrews University in Fife as part of a pilot aimed at engaging young people, but a new report has suggested the events were used as “opportunities to promote the merits of stop and search”.

Alison McInnes MSP said she was concerned that “hundreds of young people in Fife risked becoming guinea pigs in an exercise aimed at normalising so-called consensual stop and search”.

The Fife Division (Police Scotland) Stop and Search Pilot Evaluation: Findings and Recommendations was produced by academics at the University of Dundee and Edinburgh Napier University.

They wrote: “While the quantity of groups and organisations who were involved in the pilot to varying degrees is indeed impressive and commendable, there is not a clear account of what these meetings were like and how consultative they were.”

The report also says internal Police Scotland email exchanges regarding the meetings “suggest that support of young people towards stop and search is mixed”.

Police Scotland divisional commander, chief superintendent Angela McLaren, said all officers involved in the pilot received face-to-face training from their area commander.

She told The Courier: “The face-to-face training also incorporated the new consensual statement that must be read verbatim to potential persons being asked to consent to searches.

“This information was then part of the engagement with local youths, as well as other groups, to make them more informed.”

Fife Council education officer Gordon Wardrope also told the newspaper: “Our schools have a good working relationship with Police Scotland.

“It is not unusual for Community Police officers or other visitors from partner organisations to be in school, in uniform, talking to our children on any number of subjects, teaching them how to stay safe and generally promoting good relationships.

“It is usual practice that a member of staff would be in attendance on visits like this.”

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