A POLICE watchdog is offering the public £10 shopping vouchers to answer questions on their controversial use of stop and search.
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has hired an independent research company to ask members of the public in Dundee “for a minute of their time” in return for a £10 coupon.
The clipboard-wielding researchers – of the similar type sometimes used by charities to pester the public for cash – are being used to gauge the public’s attitude to the force’s use of stop and search.
Since the creation of Police Scotland stop and search powers have come under fire, with critics describing them as excessive, invasive and contrary to human rights laws.
Many have called for the public’s aversion to the laws to be taken into account – but critics have hit out at this scheme, questioning the police’s use of public cash to convince the public to answer questions.
Research company Blake Stevenson is carrying out the survey on behalf of the SPA.
The research was commissioned after a report from John Scott QC was delivered to Nicola Sturgeon, calling for work to “assess the effect of stop and search on people’s attitudes towards the public.”
But Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “If this research is indeed being carried out on behalf of the Scottish Police Authority it seems a very strange use of taxpayer’s money.
“I’m not sure what kind of information the SPA thinks this kind of self-selecting, paid survey will add to what we already know about Police Scotland’s stop and search practices.
“Further research into the impact of stop and search on different communities and groups is needed. But this is not the route I would have expected the SPA to take.
“This is an incredibly important issue that everyone in Scotland should be able to have their say on, and surveys such as these won’t help give us a clearer picture.”
Those over the age of 16 can take part in the research if they have been frisked by the force – whilst an advert asks for community leaders and workers to come forward to be quizzed.
A report on the findings of the research is due in March – and the cost of the shopping vouchers, which can be used anywhere, is to be charged to the publically-funded SPA.
Jennifer Lambert – of Blake Stevenson – said that shopping vouchers are not always used for such research.
She said: “We don’t use it for all research, but with groups who are disengaged or harder to reach it can be useful.
“People who have views about the police might be reluctant to speak to us and an incentive can help.
“We want to get a strong sense of the local community. It’s all about telling a story.”
A spokeswoman for the SPA added: “The SPA’s 2014 Scrutiny Inquiry into stop and search policy and practice by Police Scotland made a number of recommendations to improve the use of this important police tactic in Scotland.
One specific recommendation on the SPA was to commission further research, in conjunction with others to specifically look at the short and long term impact of stop and search on different groups and communities.
“Blake Stevenson, in line with other research companies, are using a standard-practice voucher scheme to encourage participation in the fieldwork.
“This incentive is being administered by Blake Stevenson and is based on previous and current experience of carrying out fieldwork-based research of this nature.”