The stop and search process
A police officer or a police community support officer (PCSO) in uniform can stop you but only police officers can search you. A police officer does not have to be in uniform but they must show you their warrant (ID) card. They can search you, anything you are carrying and a vehicle.
The types of stops you may encounter
Stop and search
This is when a police officer stops and then searches you, a vehicle and anything you're carrying.
This is when a police officer stops a vehicle.
What will happen
What you should be told
In almost all cases, you should be offered a record of the stop and search at the time it happens.
The police officer or police community support officer must explain why you're being stopped.
The police use these powers to help make the local community safer by preventing and detecting crime. Naturally, public cooperation is an essential part of that.
Where you can be searched
Stop and search most often happens in public places. However, there are some powers, such as searching for firearms or drugs, which allow police to search people anywhere.
If you're in a public place, you may be required to remove your coat or jacket and your gloves, unless you've 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, such as a face scarf, veil or turban, they must take you somewhere out of public view. This doesn’t mean you’re being arrested.
What to expect from the officer stopping or searching you
The officer must be polite and respectful at all times. We are committed to continuously improving standards around the delivery of service to our communities.
We're aware that the process may take a little time but it should be handled quickly and professionally. The police officer may ask a few questions and then, if they consider it necessary, will search you.
The search is not voluntary. If you don’t cooperate the officer can use reasonable force to conduct the search.
If the officer has a body worn video camera they'll record the encounter unless it's considered no longer necessary or proportionate.
If you're in a vehicle
A police officer can legally stop any vehicle at any time and ask to see driving documents, check the condition of the vehicle or deal with driving offences. This is not a stop and search and you may be given documentation relevant to road traffic matters. If the entire process ends there, this is considered a ‘vehicle stop'.
If a police officer then searches the vehicle or persons in it, this is a stop and search.
Information you'll receive during a stop and search
The police officer who stops and searches you must provide you with certain information including:
- why you've been stopped and searched
- why they chose you
- what they're looking for
- their name and the station where they’re based (unless the search is in relation to suspected terrorist activity or giving his or her name may place the officer in danger. They must then give their warrant ID number)
- the law under which you've been stopped
- your right to a copy of the form
The information you'll be asked for
The police officer will ask for your:
- name and address
- date of birth
- self-defined ethnicity
You don't have to give this information if you don't want to; unless the police officer says they're reporting you for an offence.
What you'll be given
You should be offered one of the following:
- a written record of the stop and search
- a receipt at the time of the event
- a copy of the record emailed to you
- you may be told where to collect the record later
You can also request a copy of the stop and search record by completing our quick and simple stop and search record request form.
If you wish to complain either about being stopped or searched or the way it was carried out, this record/receipt will help identify the circumstances.
The search record must contain the following information:
- the officer's details
- date, time and place of the stop and search
- reason for the stop and search
- outcome of the stop and search
- your self-defined ethnicity
- vehicle registration number (if relevant)
- what the officer was looking for and anything they found
- your name or a description if you refuse to give your name
You've not been subject to a stop and search if, for example:
- you're searched as a condition of entry to premises or an event
- you're searched following an arrest
- you're searched in premises that are being searched under a warrant from a court
In cases like these, a stop and search record will not be made and you'll not be given a receipt.