What is Stop and Search?

What is Stop and Search?

The use of stop and search powers allow the police to tackle crime and keep our communities safe.

Stop and search is targeted and intelligence led, taking place predominantly in areas where serious acquisitive crime (burglary, vehicle crime and robbery) and violence is taking place and on people who are known or suspected to be involved in these crimes.

The police have the legal right to stop members of the public, and search them, for a variety of reasons. There are 20 separate main statutory powers to stop and search but the vast majority of searches are conducted under section 1 of Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and s23 Misuse of Drugs Act 1973. These powers require an officer to have ‘reasonable grounds to suspect' that an individual has the prohibited item in their possession.

Being stopped does not mean you are under arrest or have done something wrong. In some cases, people are stopped as part of a wide-ranging effort to catch criminals in a targeted public place.

A police officer needs no reason to speak to you, however, they must have reasonable grounds for stopping and searching you; they are required to tell you what that reason is.

You should not be stopped just because of your age, race, ethnic background, nationality, faith, the language you speak or because you have committed a crime in the past.

There are, however, occasions when the police can search anyone in a certain area, for example, when there is evidence that serious violence has taken place or will take place. This is often known as a ‘Section 60' search.

The term ‘Section 60' refers to Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This is a distinct power that allows officers to conduct searches without ‘reasonable suspicion' but only when a chief officer believes serious violence will occur; an order for a specified locality and time may be put in place for this to happen.

There are a number of reasons why the police may stop and speak to you. There are plenty of occasions when you might talk to the police and most of these do not qualify as ‘stop and search'. Here are a few examples that you may encounter:

  • Doing the right thing the right way - Police officers and PCSOs often speak with people in the street. This is an important part of their job. Talking to someone does not require a specific power and you will not be detained when you don't want to be in order to talk to us. This does not require any forms to be completed or a record to be made. We may decide to switch off a body worn video camera if recording your interaction would make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Stop and search - when a police officer stops and then searches you, your clothes and anything you are carrying:
If they think you're carrying a weapon, drugs, stolen property or articles to commit criminal damage
If there has been serious violence or disorder in the area and a Section 60 authority is in place
As part of anti-terrorism efforts
  • Vehicle - a police officer can stop any vehicle and ask the driver for driving documents. This is not the purpose of stop and search but you may be given documentation relevant to road traffic matters. It becomes a stop search if a search of the vehicle, you or any passengers with you, is carried out.

Only a police officer can stop and search you, your clothes and anything you are carrying.

You may be stopped because the officer may have grounds to suspect that you are carrying:

  • Drugs, weapons or stolen property;
  • Items that could be used:
  • to commit crime
  • to cause criminal damage

The grounds the police officer must have should be based on facts, information or intelligence, or could be because of the way you are behaving. There are times, however, when police officers can search anyone within a certain area, for example:-

  • Where there is evidence that serious violence has or will take place. (Section 60/60aa Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994)

The police officer should explain this to you and must be searching for items that could be used in connection with violence or to ask you to remove face coverings that are believed to be intended to disguise your identity.

The police officer will ask for your name and address and date of birth. You do not have to give this information if you don't want to unless the police officer says they are reporting you for an offence.

Everyone who is stopped and searched will be asked to define thier ethnic background. You can choose from a list of national census categories that the officer will show you.

You do not have to say what your ethnicity is if you don't want to, but the officer is required to record this on the form. The ethnicity question helps us and community representatives make sure the police are using their powers fairly and proportionately.

When you have been searched you will be issued with our Stop and Search Z card which provides you with details of the search record and how you can complain through our 101 number, the IPCC, Citizen’s advice, in any police station or on our complaints page. Details of which are featured on the card.

If you would like a copy of your search you can attend any police station within three months of the search and request one. The search reference number will be provided on the Stop and Search card provided by the officer. If you do not have this reference number you can still obtain a copy with proof of ID. Please refer to our Stop and Search policy for further details.

Cleveland Police have signed up to the Home Office’s Best use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS). The aim of the scheme is to improve transparency in the use of stop and search powers, to enhance their effectiveness and to improve public confidence.  Further details of the BUSSS can be obtained from the Home Office’s Best use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS).

The search record must contain the following information:

  • The officer's details
  • The date, time and place of the stop and search
  • The reason for the stop and search
  • The outcome of the stop and search
  • Your self-defined ethnicity
  • The vehicle registration number (if relevant)
  • What the officers were looking for and anything they found
  • Your name or a description if you refuse to give your name (you do not have to provide the officer with your name and address)