What is Stop and Search?
This is when a police officer stops you and searches you, your clothes, and anything you are carrying.
The power to stop and search is a valuable policing tool in the fight against crime. It is equally important that communities are reassured that the Suffolk Constabulary use stop and search appropriately, honestly, and transparently.
Used correctly, stop and search can prevent, detect, and deter criminals whilst re-assuring the communities of Suffolk that they have an effective Police Service that they can rely on to protect them from harm.
Please note: Only a police officer can search you. (A police community support officer cannot search you unless in very specific circumstances around alcohol and tobacco confiscation.)
You can only be stopped and searched if a police officer has good reason to suspect you are carrying:
- drugs, weapons or stolen property
- items which could be used:
- to commit a crime
- to commit an act of terrorism
- to cause criminal damage
To find our more details on the police powers to stop & search please see below
What is Stop and Search continued…
Reasons for stop and search should be based on facts, information, or intelligence. It could also be because of the way you are behaving.
Please note: There are times when police officers can search anyone within a certain area, for example:
- when there is evidence that serious violence could take place there
- where a terrorist threat has been identified.
But the officer should explain this to you and must be searching for items which could be used in connection with violence or terrorism.
College of Policing’s definition of a fair and effective stop and search encounter:
A stop, and search is most likely to be fair and effective when:
- the search is justified, lawful and stands up to public scrutiny.
- the officer has genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion that they will find a prohibited article or item for use in crime.
- the search was necessary and the most proportionate method the police officer could use to establish whether the person has such an item; and
- the person understands why they have been searched and feels that they have been treated with respect.
Where can I be stopped and searched?
- in a public place; and
- anywhere, if the police believe you have committed a crime where the public have access. For more information visit Code A of Police and Criminal Evidence Act (page 25).
If you are in a public place, you only have to take off your coat or jacket and your gloves, unless you have been stopped in relation to terrorism or the officer believes you are using clothes to hide your identity.
If the police 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 does not mean you are being arrested. In this case, the police officer who searches you must be the same sex as you.
In situations where it is justified to search a person more thoroughly, and this involves the exposure of intimate parts (often referred to as strip searches), there must be two officers of the same sex and they cannot search you in a police vehicle or public place.
Usually this means taking you to a police station however the codes of practice state that the search should take place at or near to the place you were detained, and should take only a reasonable amount of time. Again, you are not under arrest, but you are detained for the purpose of that search, so should comply with directions given.
For juveniles, police officers cannot commence a strip search without the presence of an adult with care or responsibility for that person (an ‘appropriate adult’). Therefore, the officer will usually wait with the juvenile, ensuring that they are under constant supervision and care until the appropriate adult is available.
What if I am in a vehicle?
Your vehicle can be stopped at any time, and you may be asked to show your driving documents, such as your licence.
The police can search your vehicle if they have good reason to think it contains:
- stolen goods
They can search your vehicle at any time if they have reasonable grounds. They can do this even if you are not there but must leave a notice saying what they have done. See Code A of PACE (Page 6).
If the search causes damage to your car, you can ask for compensation but only if the police didn’t find anything to connect you to a crime.
What happens if I am stopped and searched?
Before you are searched, the police officer should tell you:
- that you must wait to be searched: “you are detained for the purpose of a search”;
- what law they are using to search you.
- their name and station they work at.
- the ‘grounds’ for the search – i.e., why they are searching you in particular.
- what they are looking for; and
- that you have a right to be given a form straight away showing details of the stop and search and an entitlement to collect it from a police station within 3 months if you don’t take it at the time.
Officers can use reasonable force to search people who are not compliant, however every effort must be made to try and explain the reasons for searching you in the first instance.
Your right to a receipt
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) requires police officers to make a record of every search they conduct at the time and to give the person who was searched a copy of the record. The record may be created on paper or electronically.
You will be asked if you want to obtain a copy and, if you do, you will be provided with one or given a receipt and details of how you can obtain one. You will be able to use the receipt to request a full paper copy from your local police enquiry office within three months of the stop.
If you are arrested and taken to a police station, the details of the search will be recorded as part of your custody record. You still have the right to a copy of a search record.
The record must be created at the time of the stop and search, however if there are exceptional circumstances the officer does not need to do this. This will include situations where the officer’s presence is urgently required elsewhere. If these circumstances arise, the officer should record the details of the stop and search as soon as practicable.
The officer must write down:
- your name or a description of you (only if you are searched);
- your self-defined ethnic background.
- when and where you were stopped or searched.
- why you were stopped or searched.
- if they are taking any action.
- the names and/or numbers of the officers; and
- if you were searched, what they were looking for and anything they found.
ISCRE – Further Information
The ‘Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme’ was introduced on April 30th 2014. The principal aims of the scheme are to achieve greater transparency and community involvement in the use of stop and search powers, as well as to support a more intelligence-led approach. This should lead to better outcomes, for example, an increase in the stop and search to positive outcome ratio. The scheme was amended on 11 August 2019 by the Home Secretary to exclude the original Section 60 provisions.
- Data recording – forces will record the broader range of stop and search outcomes e.g. arrests, cautions, penalty notices for disorder and all other disposal types. Forces will also show the link, or lack of one, between the object of the search and its outcome.
- Lay observation policies – providing the opportunity for members of the local community to accompany police officers on patrol using stop and search.
- Stop and search complaints ‘community trigger’ – a local complaint policy requiring the police to explain to local community scrutiny groups how the powers are being used where there is a large volume of complaints.
By adopting the scheme, forces will use stop and search strategically, which they hope will improve public confidence and trust.
On average Suffolk Police receive seven complaints per year relating to stop and search, each complaint will now be referred to the established Independent Stop Search Scrutiny Panel.
The panel is made up of lay members of the community providing oversight of our stop search practices on behalf of the public and being a ‘critical friend’ to help us improve our service.
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly then you have the right to complain.
If you wish to report your complaint through a third party you can do this by contacting ISCRE at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Mills – Has been an impactful and reliable member of the Stop and Search Reference Group (SSRG) and has provided the perspective of Suffolk Constabulary Police regarding Stop and Search.
The power to stop and search is a valuable policing tool in the fight against crime and it is important that officers feel confident to use it. It’s equally important that staff know that they have the support of the senior leadership team and the communities of Suffolk to use stop and search if it is used appropriately, honestly, openly and in a transparent manner. Used correctly it prevents, detects, and deters criminals whilst re-assuring the communities of Suffolk that they have an effective Police Service that they can rely on to protect them from harm.
Both Norfolk and Suffolk follow the guidelines written as part of “The Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme” (BUSS) which was originally announced the Home Secretary in 2014. Whilst the scheme has changed, in part, over recent years, we continue to follow the guidance and best practice that has come since its introduction.
The principal aims of the scheme are to achieve greater transparency, community involvement in the use of stop and search powers, and to support a more intelligence-led approach. This should lead to better outcomes, for example, an increase in the stop and search to positive outcome ratio.
Most of this content sits within the Stop & Search “Authorised Professional Practice” (APP), which can be found on the College of Policing website. The Joint Norfolk & Suffolk Stop & Search Policy will regularly review to reflect any changes within APP.
Governance of Stop & Search
Whilst I own the Policy for Stop & Search, the governance is managed through the Joint Use of Police Powers Board, chaired by ACC Davison on behalf of both forces. I act as his deputy and thematic lead for Police Powers in Suffolk.
Meetings that are key to the management of the Stop & Search in Suffolk:
Police Powers Delivery Group
This a monthly meeting that discusses any issues arising out of the Joint Board specific to Suffolk and where key areas for development are discussed across a host of thematic areas associated with Police Powers including Stop & Search, Use of Force and Taser.
Suffolk Internal Stop & Search Scrutiny Group
This is a bi-monthly meeting chaired by ACC Local Policing. Whilst attended by the Tactical leads, the meeting is open to all Officers and Staff. The meeting is generally split into two halves with the first part of the meeting dedicated to peer reviews of Stop & Searches that’s have taken place where Officers and staff are shown actual BWV of an incident and then provide scrutiny of both the incident and associated form.
Pre-SSRG Body Worn Video Review
This is a meeting held between ISCRE and Police prior to the main SSRG and allows an opportunity for Police to share details of 2x Stop & Search incidents for the outset to conclusion including a review of the BWV and associated forms. Learning is fed back to Officers and observations are also shared by ISCRE at the main SSRG
Key areas to consider
Data quality – forces are required to provide data returns to the Home Office each year in respect of Stop & Search. These data sets can change or be amended each year and it is the responsibility of the Constabulary to ensure that our data is accurate and of a good quality. It must also be consistent with any associated Body Worn Video. As a result of this you may see regular changes to the data, we ask you to capture.
Recorded Grounds – A key area of concern for the SSRG and HMICFRS is how the forces records the “Grounds” for a search. Whilst the Law sets out several requirements when Stop & Searching someone, it is the Grounds that justifies the reasons for a search of that person or vehicle. It is key that the detail contained within is accurate and reflects the “actual” circumstances leading to the search. As of the 1st of January 2023, Suffolk Constabulary has adopted the “SEE, KNOW, SUSPECT” model for recording grounds.
Use Of Force – Using any type of force must be justified in all occasions and the divisive nature of Stop & Search means that we must get this right in both the rationale and recording of any Use Of Force. The use of handcuffs during a Stop & Search is of particular concern to the community and Officers should be cognisant of applying both legislation associated with Stop & Search and legislation associated with any use of force, including the use of handcuffs. Force of any kind used during a Stop & Search must be accompanied by a submission of an Assaults, Force, Incidents Form (AFI)
For further Suffolk Constabulary information please see there website below and keep up to date with them via social media: