DORSET police has responded to questions raised after statistics showed the county had the highest stop and search rate for black people in England and Wales.

Government figures revealed 62 in every 1,000 black people in Dorset were subject to a stop and search from April 2018 to March 2019.

The statistics were released earlier this year, however, they have been shared widely on social recently as Black Lives Matter protests take place across the country following the death of George Floyd in the United States of America.

In a detailed statement, Dorset Police said it has adopted the ‘Best Use of Stop Search’ and in 2019-20 of the 2,105 searches which were undertaken, 153 were individuals who identified as black and over half of those people were not residents of Dorset.

The force said the latter point is "important context to recognise" as figures are based on the county's population rather than visitors and this can "exaggerate the disproportionality rate".

The statement said: "Like all forces in England and Wales, Dorset Police uses stop and search as a legitimate way to maintain law and order.

"We are very aware of the concerns around the use of stop and search, especially in light of recent events in the USA. Policing in the UK has always been by consent, since the days of Robert Peel and this is something that matters deeply to every police officer. It is not acceptable that any section of society should see the police as a threat or hostile to their community and it is up to us to make sure we maintain the confidence and support of everyone.

"Stop and search, used properly, is a valuable tool in dealing with criminal behaviour, helping us deal with many offences, from possession of controlled substances to burglary. However, anyone subject to stop and search will know that it can be an unsettling experience, which only magnifies the upset felt by those who feel they have been stopped without reason or because of bias. We understand that and have been working to make sure our use of stop and search is appropriate and justified."

Dorset Police added: "Having said this we recognise that any disproportionality can raise concerns and affect people’s perception of policing and, in Dorset, we are working hard to do all we can to ensure our use of stop and search is lawful, justified and necessary."

The force said it has worked with an independent scrutiny panel to ensure the use of stop and search is "fair and held to account", with the panel giving an "overwhelming response" that the activity of the county's officers is "proportionate and justified".

"In 2019 we undertook a review of how we use stop and search, alongside an independent review commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner," the force said. "We have been implementing recommendations of these reviews, including strict supervisory reviews of each stop and search along with unconscious bias training for our staff. We have also introduced a stop and search board chaired by the Deputy Chief Constable to ensure we are progressive in the use of the tactic.

"We have always worked hard to ensure that our communities and residents feel supported and protected by our officers and staff and we will continue learning lessons to improve the service we offer, especially to vulnerable communities and those who suffer prejudice and racism in their everyday lives."