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Over 18 months, starting in January 2007, the Open Society Justice Initiative worked with police forces and civil society organizations in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Spain to monitor the use of police stops in a project supported by the European Commission’s AGIS Programme titled “Strategies for Effective Police Stop and Search project,” or
STEPSS. The participating organizations and individuals not only had the foresight to recognize that they might have a problem with ethnic profiling, but were also willing to tackle the issue directly and share their experiences.
The STEPSS project was a three-country initiative designed to improve policeminority relations through the more accountable and effective use of police powers in selected communities. Through the project, participating police forces developed tools to monitor the use of identity checks and stop and search powers, to determine whether they affect minority communities in a disproportionate manner, and to enable an analysis of their effectiveness in detecting and investigating crime.
STEPSS project activities included an audit of current policies, practices, and training; a study tour of several sites in England; development of new guidelines, training methods, and a monitoring tool; and the monitoring of stops and ID checks for a period of six months. Community consultation was integral to each step of the project process, with the monitoring results used to further police-community discussion of public safety policies and resource allocation, and to support the development, where necessary, of alternative approaches to local crime and safety problems.
In Bulgaria, STEPSS was coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, the Center for the Study of Democracy, and the Open Society Institute–Sofia. The following participants took part in the project implementation: Philip Gounev, Chavdar Chervenkov, and Tihomir Bezlov of CSD; Kamelia Dimitrova; Milcho Enev, Plamen Petkov, Iliana Ivanova-Sapundzhieva, Vyacheslav Evogiev of the General Directorate of Police; Albena Haralampieva and Julian Pishev (interpreters).