OXFORDSHIRE police are no longer under surveillance for stopping and searching too many people from minority groups.

Thames Valley Police agreed to cut searches by September this year after being threatened with legal action by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2010.

The commission said the force had “demonstrated significant and persistent race differences” in its use of the stop and search powers.

But last month the force was released from the agreement as the commission said it was satisfied it had tackled the problem.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Bennett last night said: “This is an issue that the force has taken extremely seriously and we are pleased the commission has agreed to end the legally-binding agreement slightly earlier than expected.

“The power to stop and search is a valuable tool in tackling criminality.

“However, Thames Valley Police recognises its use must be carefully applied to ensure lawfulness and minimise disproportionality.”

He said the commission praised the training given to officers and the monitoring done by the management team.

He added: “It has been made clear to all officers in Thames Valley Police that stop and search is a power that is to be used sensitively and only where there are reasonable grounds for doing so, and this is reflected by the results achieved.

“As a force we are focusing on training and making sure that every stop and search is lawful, proportionate and necessary.”

In January, police chiefs defended the force’s use of stop and search powers for black and Asian people after figures showed they were not meeting the targets set by the equality organisation.

Searches of black and Asian people in Oxford had gone up from July to September last year, compared to the previous three months.

The target is that for every 1,000 white people, one should be stopped and searched.

And guidelines say no more than 3.2 black people and 1.5 Asians should be stopped and searched for every 1,000.

But the figure for stop and searches for black people was 3.4 across the force and 3.7 in Oxford.

John Wadham, of the commission, said: “We are greatly encouraged by the efforts of Thames Valley Police.

“The force’s results show that the police can use intelligence to target stops and searches better.”