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Serving the community

The police

Stop and Search

Stop and search powers allow the police to combat street crime and anti-social behaviour, and prevent more serious crimes.

What happens if I’m stopped and searched?

If you are stopped you’ll first be asked where you’re going and what you’ve been doing. The police may then decide to search you but only if they have a good reason, for example, that you fit the profile of a criminal seen in the area, or they think you’re acting suspiciously.

Here are some facts about stop and search:

  • the search will take place on the street
  • if the officer asks you to remove more than your coat and gloves, or anything you wear for religious reasons, they must take you somewhere out of public view
  • you’ll be asked to turn out your pockets and show the officers the contents of your bag
  • they can also search your vehicle, even if you aren’t present, but they must leave a notice to say what they’ve done
  • if you’re carrying something illegal, such as a weapon, or the police believe you’ve committed a crime, you may be arrested
  • if they don’t find anything, your details will be recorded for monitoring purposes, and you’ll be allowed to go

What information will I need to provide?

You don’t have to give your name, address or date of birth to the police if you’re stopped and searched unless you’re being reported for an offence.

However, it’s advisable that when asked, you describe your ethnic origin. It’s important that you give this information to the officer, as this is how we monitor disproportionate stopping of ethnic minorities and encourage police accountability.

The officer will fill out a form outlining the reason for stopping you, the outcome of the stop and search and their name, and give you a copy. Information will be held on the encounter, rather than on you as an individual, which allows police to develop community intelligence and ensures officers are accountable for their actions. Information will only be held on file against you if you are charged with an offence resulting from the search.

Can I complain about being stopped and searched?

You should not be stopped or searched just because of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, the way you dress or because you’ve committed a crime in the past.

The form that you were given when you were stopped should contain all the details of the officer that stopped you, so you can take your complaint straight to the police station that they work at.

If you're not satisfied with the answers you get, or if you want further advice before making a complaint, your local Citizens' Advice Bureau (new window) will be able to help you.

You can make a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (new window).

Find out more

You can find out more about stop and search, including what to do if you are stopped from your local police force or neighbourhood policing team (new window).

See also

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