A controversial new drug policy in England and Wales has casual weed-smokers breathing a sigh of relief, while police officers are left scratching their heads. Dissension has broken out amongst UK police forces due to recent advice that warns arresting officers NOT to stop and search people simply because an officer smells cannabis.
The change in policy was actually brought to police’s attention last year but was just recently reiterated in a Tuesday report by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.
The guidance suggests that smell alone doesn’t constitute a stop and search, and other factors, such as behavior, should be considered before any action is taken. The report also noted that frequent stop and searches do not necessarily increase the likelihood of a conviction.
“The APP sets out that the smell of cannabis on its own, with no other contributory factors, will not normally justify a search,” the report said. “More recent research has shown that the inclusion of the smell of cannabis in officers’ grounds for search did not increase the likelihood that a search for cannabis resulted in a criminal justice outcome.”
While this serves as more of a guideline than an actual police mandate, it has caused a level of disconnect amongst police forces, according to a new report from the BBC.
Chief Constable Andy Cooke, of Merseyside Police, for example, said he would not be giving that advice to his teams—despite the memo from the Inspectorate of Constabulary.
He took to social media to vent his frustration with the guidelines.
“I disagree. The guidance in my view is wrong and the law does not preclude it,” Cooke tweeted. “Smell of cannabis is sufficient to stop search and I will continue to encourage my officers to use it particularly on those criminals who are engaged in serious and organized crime.”
Another police officer from North Yorkshire seemed to echo Cooke’s sentiment. He also took to Twitter to express his confusion over the new “rule.”
“If I smell Cannabis on someone or coming from a vehicle then I’ll conduct a search. I don’t think there’s a cop in this land that wouldn’t. Recently not only had that led to me seizing quantities of Cannabis, but also arresting drivers showing with it in their system,” the tweet read.
- What do you think of this new policy? Let us know in the comments below