Why do the police stop
and search people?
The police can stop and search people to detect certain
types of crime to help make our communities safer.
The successful use of stop and search means there
are fewer victims of crime and more crimes are detected.
You will NOT be stopped and
searched just because of your age, colour, hairstyle,
the way you dress, etc.
Why would an officer
carry out a ‘stop and search’?
If you are stopped by the police it does not necessarily
mean you are doing anything wrong. You may fit the
description of someone the officers are seeking in
connection with a crime or they may suspect you of
carrying stolen goods, drugs or something you could
use to commit a crime or that could be used as a weapon.
How will they search
Before an officer searches he/she must tell you:
which police station they work at
what made them suspicious in the first place
the aim of the search
what they expect to find
If the officer is not in uniform he/she must show
you their identity card.
If you are stopped and searched
the officers will try to be sensitive, discreet and
quick – they will do their best not to embarrass
or delay your unnecessarily.
If you are in a public place,
the officer can only ask you to take off your coat
or jacket or gloves.
If the officer asks you to take
off more than that, eg, your shoes or a face scarf,
you will be taken somewhere private, such as a police
station. This does not mean you have been arrested.
In this case, the officer searching you must be the
same sex as you.
If you are searched, the officer must write down on
your name or your description
why you were searched
when and where you were searched
what the officer was looking for and whether anything
the name and number of the officer who searched you
The police do not have to make a record if they just
stop you but don’t search you.
Do I have to give officers
my name and address?
If you are stopped the officers
will ask you some simple questions such as your name,
where you live and where you are going.
Unless they are reporting you
for a suspected crime, you don’t have to give
them these details, but it makes sense to co-operate.
If you are innocent you have nothing to fear.
If you are being reported for
an offence, you do have to provide these details and
may be arrested if you refuse to give your details.
Will the officer give
me a copy of what they have written down?
Yes. The officer will write down what happens on a
form and hand you a copy to keep. If you are not prepared
to wait for the form, you can obtain a copy from the
police station any time within 12 months.
If your car is searched when
you are not there, the officers will leave a notice
explaining what has happened.
Where can officers carry
out a stop and search?
The police can usually only stop and search you in
a public place. But if they suspect you have committed
a serious crime, they can search you anywhere.
If the police think there may
be serious violence in an area at a certain time,
they can search for knives or other weapons. In this
case, they could search everyone at a school or going
to a football match without needing a good reason
for each individual person.
Can the police stop
and search my car when I am driving?
If you are driving, a police officer can stop you
at any time if they suspect the driver/and or occupants
of the vehicle have committed a crime or may be about
to do so.
Under the Road Traffic Act,
an officer may stop any vehicle being driven on the
road. You may be asked to produce documents, such
as a driving licence, MOT or insurance details or
the officer may examine the vehicle to make sure it
What if the police cause
damage getting into my vehicle?
If officers believe your vehicle may be carrying stolen
drugs, drugs or something which could be used to commit
crime, your car may be searched even if you are not
If the search causes damage,
you can ask the police to pay compensation. However,
they will only pay this if they did not find anything
to connect you to a crime.
What can I do if I am
not happy and wish to complain?
The police must treat you fairly, politely and with
respect. If you are unhappy with the way you have
been treated, please try to stay calm. If you wish
to complain about your treatment you can contact your
local police station.
Alternatively you can seek advice
from your local police authority, a Citizen’s
Advice Bureau, the Commission for Racial Equality
or a solicitor.