What is stop and search?
Stop and search is when a police officer stops and then searches you, your clothes and anything you are carrying.
The police can stop and search you:
- If they think you're carrying a weapon, drugs or stolen property
- If they think you are carrying items that could be used to commit a crime or cause criminal damage
- If there has been serious violence or disorder in the vicinity
- If they are looking for a suspect who fits your description
- As part of anti-terrorism efforts
A police officer must have grounds to stop and search you based on facts, information or intelligence. It could also be because of the way you are behaving. There are times when police officers can search anyone, for example:
- Where there is evidence that serious violence has or may take place. (Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). The police officer should explain this to you and must be searching for items that could be used in connection with violence.
If you are stopped and searched it does not mean you are under arrest or have done something wrong. In some cases, people are stopped as part of an effort to catch criminals in a targeted public place.
You should not be stopped just because of your age, race, ethnic background, nationality, faith, the language you speak or because you have committed a crime in the past.
You will not necessarily be searched every time you are stopped. Sometimes you may just be stopped and questioned.
Only a police officer can stop and go on to search you. A police officer does not have to be in uniform but if they are not, they must show you their warrant card.
Where can I be searched?
Generally stop and search happens in public places. This might be in areas around football matches or in neighbourhoods that have experienced crime or vandalism. But it can be anywhere, if the police believe you have committed a crime.
If you are in a public place, you only have to take off your coat or jacket and gloves. The exception is if you are stopped in relation to terrorism or where the officer believes you are using clothes to hide your identity.
An officer will take you out of public view if they ask you to take off other items or anything you wear for religious reasons. This does not mean you are being arrested.
Vehicle stop and search
Your vehicle can be stopped at any time and the officer may ask you to show your driving documents.
A police officer can stop any vehicle at any time and ask to see your driving licence. They can also ask where you are going and why. If the process ends there, it is known as a ‘vehicle stop'.
If a police officer then tells you to step out of the vehicle and it is then searched, this is a ‘vehicle stop and search'.
What the officer will do
Before an officer searches they must tell you:
- That you have been detained for stop and search purposes.
- Their name and the station where they work (unless the search is in relation to suspected terrorist activity or if giving their name places them in danger. They must then give a warrant card or identification number).
- The law under which you have been stopped
- Your rights.
- Why you have been stopped and searched and what they are looking for.
- Why they chose you.
- Your unique stop and search reference number.
Our officers must:
- Be polite and respectful at all times and carry out the stop and searches with courtesy and consideration.
- Complete the process in a quick and professional manner.
- Use stop and search powers in a fair and responsible way without discrimination.
What you should do if you are stopped and searched
Everyone has a civic duty to help police officers prevent crime and catch offenders. The fact that the police may have stopped you does not mean you are guilty of an offence.
- Cooperate - the search is not voluntary and the officer can use reasonable force to conduct the search.
- Be patient – the officer understands that being stopped may be inconvenient. They will be able to complete the search quicker if you cooperate.
- Stay calm – you are not under arrest. Answer questions as best you can.
It's up to you whether you provide your name and address. You don't have to, but the best advice is that you should cooperate with the police.
The officer will ask you to define your ethnic background. You do not have to give this information, but the officer must record this on the form. This helps community representatives make sure we are using our powers in a fair and proper way.
Don't forget that we carry out stops and searches according to strict rules. We have a responsibility to ensure that your rights are protected. You should expect to be treated fairly and responsibly. Don't be afraid to speak to the officer if you think your rights are being infringed.
What happens after the stop and search?
You will receive a unique reference number on a slip. This reference number is unique to your stop and search. If you need a record of your stop and search, you can get a copy by going to your local police station.
To get your stop and search record, you must have the unique reference number and a form of ID with you. This can be for example:
- Driving Licence
- Student ID Card
You have three months from the stop and search to ask for a copy of the record. There is no charge for obtaining a copy.
The search record will contain the following information:
- the officer details
- the date, time and place of the stop and search
- the reason for the stop and search
- the outcome of the stop and search
- your self-defined ethnicity
- the vehicle registration number (if recorded)
- what the officers were looking for and anything they found
- your name and address.
The fact that you are stopped and searched does not mean that you are under arrest or have done anything wrong. The stop and search record does not amount to you having a police record.
Stop and search feedback
Your feedback is valuable to us so that we can improve our service to you. Stop and search feedback
If you have been stopped and searched you can provide us with feedback on your experience.
Community complaints trigger
We recognise that the ability to stop and the power to search people and vehicles has the potential to impact on crime reduction and road safety. It has a crucial role to play in protecting our communities.
We will comply with the law, treat people with respect, be polite and, where practicable, explain our actions and powers to people. We will conduct stops and searches ethically and sensitively and take community concerns into account.
Under the Best Use of Stop and Search scheme, you can contact us if you have a concern about the way we use stop and search. You can do this by contacting us at email@example.com.
More help and support
College of Policing
Related Website Pages
20 Feb 19 2:03 PM