Using the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, 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.

Removing clothing: police powers

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

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

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

What can the public expect?

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

  • Being told they are being detained for a search
  • asked their their surname and police station
  • Officer will state what they expect to find, eg drugs
  • Explain the reason they want to search the, 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.
  • Explain why they are legally allowed to search you
  • Explain that they can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how they can get a copy

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

If a person is stopped they 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 if a person is unhappy about being Stop and searched?

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

To do this, they go to the contact us section of the Devon and Cornwall Police website and follow ‘how to make a complaint’. If they don’t want to make an official complaint but want to give feedback (good or bad) on being stopped and searched they can email the force. 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 a person is 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 a person will need to tell an employer or anyone else about unless they want to. While a record of the search is kept, that is not a criminal record and details are not put on the local or national police systems as any sort of suspect or criminal.