AVON and Somerset’s chief constable Andy Marsh has spoken publicly about recent criticism the force has faced over stop and search procedures.
Speaking during an interview with BBC Points West, Mr Marsh defended the force and spoke about his desire to see more black and ethnic minority (BME) officers on the force.
Avon and Somerset has been under fire over its use of stop and search procedures on BME groups, and the use of tasers, after footage emerged of one of the weapons being discharged in the face of it's race relations officer.
Last month, only weeks after the incident, it learned that it would be examined by an independent review panel.
During the interview, Mr Marsh said he accepted that there are those with opinions that differ to his, acknowledging that they had the right to express them and said that it was important to listen and respond accordingly when appropriate.
He said: “My ambition is for Avon and Somerset to be an outstanding police force and the best way to do that is by working closely with the communities we serve.
“To achieve this we need to be fully representative of our communities, not only so people see us as their police but so that we have an organisation full of diverse ideas and opinions.
“While we have made great strides in this area we are not as representative as we could and want to be and I’d love to have a workforce which is made up of a mix of people from all walks of life, and in particular, those who aren’t like me.”
According to police statistics, the force was conducing 13,000 stop and searches a year, whereas presently they conduct around 3,000, with footage provided from body worn cameras of each incident so that the force can be held to account.
In a recent review of stop searches across all forces in England and Wales, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that officers in 96 per cent of incidents in Avon and Somerset had reasonable grounds to conduct the search – the highest of all forces assessed.
The force however has said that its ambition is to reach 100 per cent, and that it is committed to providing the community it serves with “a fair and transparent service” with fairness to everybody being of vital importance.
Mr Marsh said that the force is currently recruiting officers and staff, and that he would love to be able to look at introducing more “high quality black and minority ethnic young men and women” to the roster.
He said: “As part of our efforts to recruit people from different backgrounds we now give additional credit to anyone with a second language as these are the skills we need to police our multi-cultural society.
“So I’d urge all those with differing opinions to either join us in conversation or join our workforce so we can all have a police force we are proud of.”