The police are people. Some of the things they do they do as ordinary people; and some of the things they do they using the powers given to them as police (police officers or Police Community Support Officers). If a police officer speaks to you it will generally be using no police powers, but as an ordinary person. Like an ordinary person, you can expect them to be polite.
They can ask you anything including who you are, where you’ve been and they should explain why they’re asking.
As they’re not using any special powers you do not have to answer their questions; or stop with them – but like with an ordinary person, it is always good to start out being polite back (even if you are telling them you’re not going to talk to them).
Consider whether what the police are doing is helpful; trying to keep weapons and dangerous drugs off the street, and stopping people stealing things is something you may want to try and help the police with (even if they don’t have a power to insist you help them).

What will happen?

The police have the power to stop and search to protect members of the community.

We know being stop and searched can be a scary or annoying process but remember it is an important tool the police have to keep us safe.

Remember, stay calm and polite and if you are in doubt of anything that is happening, ask questions.

Removing clothing: police powers

In a public place a police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves.

The police can ask you to take off other clothes including anything you’re wearing for religious reasons – eg a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere private [out of public view].

If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.

What you can expect?

Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you:

  • You are being detained for a search
  • their surname and police station
  • what they expect to find, eg drugs
  • the reason they want to search you, eg you match the detailed description of someone reported to be offering drugs for sale; this cannot be just because of your race age or gender.
  • why they are legally allowed to search you
  • that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy

If the police are not in uniform they must show you their warrant cards / ID; Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) must be in uniform.

If you are stopped you should record the details of the officers and what happened:

  • Time and date
  • Officer’s surname and badge number
  • Where were you stopped?
  • What happened?

What can I do if I am unhappy about being Stop and searched?

If you were not happy with why you were stopped and searched or if you were not happy with the way in which you were treated during being stopped and searched you can make a complaint.

To do this go to the contact us section of this website and follow ‘how to make a complaint’. If you don’t want to make an official complaint but want to give feedback (good or bad) on being stopped and searched you can email: stopsearch

This email will be seen by the senior officer reviewing stop and search for the local police and be given to the independent scrutiny group to review.

If I am Stop and searched will this show up on as a criminal record?

Being stopped and searched is not the same as being arrested and is not a criminal record, nor something which you need to tell an employer or anyone else about unless you want to. While a record of the search is kept that is not a criminal record and your details are not put on the local or national police systems as any sort of suspect or criminal.