Non-statutory stop and search activity by Scottish police officers cost taxpayers almost £10 million last year, the Sunday Herald reported this week.
The majority of stop and search procedures undertaken in Scotland are non-statutory, which means that they are premised on verbal consent. The controversial searches are aimed at finding drugs, weapons and other illegal items.
According to an analysis by the newspaper, the 640,699 searches carried out by Police Scotland in 2013-14 cost a total of nearly £14.1m. Non-statutory searches accounted for £9.8m of that amount.
The Sunday Herald used a method to calculate costs that was employed by the former Strathclyde Police force, assuming that two officers devote 15 minutes to each procedure. On that basis, every search carried out by Police Scotland costs £22.
Stop and search uses a “significant amount of police officer resource,” according to a recent review of the policy by the Scottish Police Authority, which oversees policing in Scotland. Its report calculated that non-statutory stop and search activity takes up about 250,000 hours of policing time each year.
Yet official figures show that fewer than one in five of all searches are successful.
The Sunday Herald noted that £11.3m of the £14.1m total cost of stop and searches last year went on searches that found nothing.
“These figures throw into sharp relief the remarkable allocation of resources to a policy which lacks a credible evidence base,” commented Kath Murray, a doctoral researcher in stop and search at the University of Edinburgh.