Stop and search
We use this tool to help prevent and detect crime, and help make our communities safer.
The police use stop and search powers to prevent crime and to identify or rule out suspects. This helps us to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, and prevent more serious crime from occurring. The law says you must stay with the officer while they search you.
The fact that you were stopped and searched doesn't mean that you are under arrest or have done anything wrong. Although the officer is legally required to complete a form, this doesn't amount to you having a police or criminal record.
If there is reasonable suspicion, police can search you for:
- stolen property, weapons, items to commit theft or criminal damage (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 / Firearms Act 1968)
- drugs (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971)
- items linked to terrorism (Terrorism Act 2000)
- alcohol or tobacco products if you are under 18 years old (Young Persons Act 1997)
- in a defined area at a specific time where there is good reason to believe there is a possibility of serious violence, that a person is carrying a dangerous object, or if an offensive weapon used in an incident is being carried in the area (Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994)
There is more information on the powers the police have on Gov.uk's dedicated page.
You can be stopped by a police officer or a police community support officer (PCSO). The PCSO must be in uniform and can only search you for alcohol, tobacco or under the Terrorism Act 2000. A police officer does not have to be in uniform but if they are not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.
All search powers allow you to be searched in a public place and for some, like the Misuse of Drugs Act or Terrorism Act, you can be searched anywhere.
If you are in a public place, you only have to take off your outer clothing and gloves, unless you have been stopped in relation to terrorism or where the officer believes you are using clothes to hide your identity.
If the officer asks you to take off more than this or anything you wear for religious reasons, they must take you somewhere out of public view. In this case, the police officer who searches you must be the same gender as you.
Our commitment to you
You can expect the officer searching you to be polite and respectful at all times. We'll carry out the search with courtesy, consideration and you should be dealt with quickly and professionally.
You should not be stopped and searched just because of your age, race, ethnic background, nationality, faith, the language you speak or because you have committed a crime in the past.
We will ask you to define your ethnic background, as the officer is required to record this on the form. This will help community representatives make sure the police are using their powers fairly and properly. However, you don't have to disclose your ethnicity if you don't want to.
You should receive a written record of the search at the time of the event; however, because of operational demands, the record may be made available to collect later.
If you want to complain about being searched or the way it was carried out, this record will help identify the circumstances. Police may also use the record at a later date to contact you about anything that may have happened in that area around the time you were stopped.
Best use of stop and search scheme
The principal aims of the stop and search scheme are to achieve greater transparency and increase community involvement in the use of stop and search powers. We are committed to being open and transparent about stop and search and are constantly striving to ensure that the public understand what is being done to improve how the power is used.
We have published our own plan in relation to stop and search following the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report into these powers.
Our local community trigger process provides us with an opportunity to explain to community groups how stop and search powers are being used when complaints or feedback is received. You can give feedback by completing the trigger application or you can make a complaint, if necessary.
Community observer scheme
We have signed up to this scheme, which allows members of the public to gain an insight into how police officers consider and apply their use of stop and search powers. Find out more about how to observe our work.
We publish data on the outcomes of stop a search and the ethnicity of those stopped and search. Our records are routinely dip-sampled by members of our Independent Advisory Groups, with any issues identified being addressed locally as well as across the organisation. Police.uk publish data based on your local area.