Northumbria Police is one of five forces in the country which requires improvement, according to a report released today on whether people are treated fairly and ethically.
The Legitimacy inspection, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), examined all 43 forces in England and Wales on whether they operate fairly, ethically and within the law, how they engage with their communities and their use of stop and search and tasers.
Thirty-seven police forces were graded as good, and one police force, Kent Police, achieved an outstanding grade. Additionally, there were five police forces that were graded as requires improvement, including Northumbria, none was inadequate.
Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, Steve Ashman, said: "We accept most of the findings of this report and acknowledge that at the time the inspection took place there were areas for improvement in Northumbria Police.
"It is reassuring to note the positive comments of the HMIC regarding the way our officers engage so positively with our communities, however, we recognise the need to make further improvements in our compliance with the Best use of Stop and Search scheme. We have already taken active steps to ensure we become fully compliant with HMIC recommendations and are now seeking to make further improvements, such as the introduction of a Youth Scrutiny Panel.
"The report highlights the fact that the inspection took place in the spring of 2015, since when a significant amount of change has taken place. I am confident that we have made real progress in changing the culture of the organisation to one which welcomes challenge and encourages innovation. I look forward to this year's inspection as an opportunity for us to show exactly where we are now."
Temporary Chief Superintendent Sharon Stavers, chairman of the Superintendents Association, added: "We acknowledge and accept these findings, however, it's important to note that this inspection was conducted in April 2015, and was prior to the appointment of our new Chief Constable, Steve Ashman.
"Since that time, there has been a marked change in the culture at Northumbria police. For the first time in a number of years, a staff survey has been conducted and the views and opinions of all of the workforce are helping us to deliver noticeable improvements.
"We have already formed a good working relationship with Mr Ashman and share his determination to address any issues and ensure the next inspection will paint a very different picture."
Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary Stephen Otter, who led the inspection, said: "The majority of police forces demonstrate fair and ethical behaviour; the public expect no less. However, all the good work that we've seen forces are doing to engage with their local communities risks being undermined if they continue to fail to get stop and search right.
"This is the third time we've looked at stop and search in the last three years and although there is some improvement, it's not happening fast enough. This is inexcusable given that it is one of the principal indicators of police legitimacy.
"In this inspection, we found that police use of stop and search was declining: police officers need to be given the confidence to use this policing tactic correctly. Additionally, too many forces are still not recording the reasonable grounds for stopping a person – in one force, almost two thirds of the records we reviewed did not record this detail.
"I am frustrated by the apparent lack of commitment by chief constables to ensuring stop and search is used properly and legitimately, and I am looking for police leaders to take action to address this within the next three months."