Stop and Search
Everybody who completes the survey
can choose to be entered into a
Jump to FAQs:
Why do the police use 'stop and
What does a police 'stop and search'
Can police conduct searches relating
to acts of terrorism?
Where can I be searched?
What information am I
entitled to before the search takes place?
How can I expect to be treated before
What happens after the search?
Do I have to give my name, address or
date of birth?
Why do I have to self define my own
Are there any exceptions to providing
a record of a 'stop and search'?
Does this mean I have a police
What does this mean if I am stopped
How can I complain?
What about other types of police
Why do the police use ‘Stop and
Stop and Search is an essential tool in fighting crime and
Hertfordshire Constabulary is committed to using the full range of
‘Stop and Search’ powers provided by law.
We use ‘Stop and Search’ to look
for items such as stolen property, drugs, dangerous weapons or the
tools used to commit crime on the streets of Hertfordshire. The
effective use of drug searches creates a hostile operating
environment for those who deal in illegal substances. Our weapons
searches seek to remove knives, firearms and other offensive
weapons from circulation, preventing serious harm and keeping
‘Stop and Search’ is governed by
the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which sets out how and when
searches should take place. The law requires Officers to have
reasonable grounds to suspect an individual of being in possession
of articles that amount to evidence of an offence before searching
them. Where such grounds exist, we will search individuals in order
to prevent and detect crime and make our communities safer.
Targeting ‘Stop and Search’ is
effective in identifying offenders and deterring individuals from
committing crime or anti-social behaviour. In Hertfordshire we
target ‘Stop and Search’ in places where ‘intelligence’ tells us
that offenders are operating or where we know that crimes are being
committed. On occasion Police Officers use their professional
judgment to decide if necessary to carry out a ‘Stop and
Hertfordshire Constabulary believes the proactive and
rigorous use of ‘Stop and Search’ powers, deters, disrupts and
detects criminal activity, street crime and antisocial behaviour
and in doing so secures safety, justice and reassurance for all,
helping to catch criminals and keep people safe and build
public trust and confidence
Accurate recoding provides us with an understanding of where, when
and on whom our searches are being conducted. This is essential to
enable us to identify disproportionality and dispel any myths,
allegations or perceptions of disproportionality taking place. We
treat any misuse of the powers or related complaints seriously. All
Officers are trained in the lawful use of ‘Stop and Search’ and
Officers must treat those they search with respect and dignity.
Sergeants are expected to routinely
observe their Officers interactions with members of the public to
ensure they are conducted professionally. Chief Inspectors must
ensure that ‘Stop and Search’ is used appropriately, targeting
places where more crime is committed.
The Constabulary routinely
publishes ‘Stop and Search’ statistics for scrutiny by both the
public and external groups and organisations, such as the Police
Crime Commissioner, Hertfordshire Criminal Justice Board, Race
Equality Group and Hertfordshire Equality Council.
ACC Alison Roome-Gifford says “In Hertfordshire we have excellent
crime reduction levels and have worked hard to build the trust of
our communities. We aim to keep it this way using Stop and Search
effectively to deter, detect and disrupt criminal activity”.
WHAT DOES A POLICE STOP AND SEARCH
A ‘Stop and Search’ is when a Police Officer stops you or your
vehicle and searches you, your vehicle, your clothes or anything
you are carrying. Officers must have a good reason for stopping you
and they should tell you what this is.
A Police Officer can only search you if he or she has reasonable
grounds to suspect that they’re likely to find;
• Stolen property;
• Items which could be used to commit burglary, theft or
• Certain types of firework;
• Evidence of game and wildlife offences;
• Alcohol at or on route to a designated sporting event;
• Items made, adapted or intended to damage or destroy
• Articles connected with terrorism.
If an Officer of at least the rank
of Inspector believes that there may be weapon carrying or serious
violence in a particular area, temporary powers under S60 Criminal
Justice and Public Order Act 1994 may be authorised so that anyone
in that area (e.g. near a football ground) may be searched for
weapons without the Police Officer needing to have reasonable
grounds for each person searched.
Police Officers have powers to
search your vehicle, even if it is unattended. If this happens, the
police must leave a notice saying what they have done. If the
search causes damage you may apply for compensation and each
application will be considered on its merit.
CAN POLICE CONDUCT SEARCHES
RELATING TO ACTS OF TERRORISM?
Under Section 47a of The Terrorism Act (2000) (Remedial) Order
2011, an authorisation to stop and search may be made by an
Officer of at least Assistant Chief Constable rank where they
reasonably suspect that an act of terrorism will take place in a
specified area and the search is necessary to prevent it.
This power allows Officers to stop
and search pedestrians and vehicles and search anything carried by
a pedestrian, any vehicle, anything carried by a driver or
passenger or anything on or in a vehicle. The power does not
allow for the searching of people or their clothing.
The Secretary of State must be
notified and give their authorisation if it is to remain in force
beyond 48 hours.
PCSOs in Hertfordshire have the
power to conduct such searches providing they are in the company of
a constable who is supervising them.
Any person or vehicle in a
specified area may be searched without the Police Officer or PCSO
needing to have reasonable grounds for each vehicle
WHERE CAN I BE SEARCHED?
Police Officers can use their powers of ‘Stop and Search’ in public
places and in some circumstances, private locations as
• Being searched 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.
• You should not be stopped solely because of your age, race,
ethnic background, nationality, faith, gender, sexual orientation,
or disability, the language you speak or because you have committed
a crime in the past.
• A Police Officer must have a good reason to suspect that you are
in possession of articles that could amount to evidence of an
offence before searching you. Police Officers form their suspicions
on the basis of what they have seen or heard, information from
colleagues or members of the public and information from police
intelligence systems. It might be for example that they are looking
for a suspect who fits your description. Whatever the case, the
Police Officer will tell you their suspicions and the reasons for
• ‘Stop and Search’ enables Police Officers to quickly allay or
confirm suspicion about individuals without the need to first make
an arrest. The Police Officer may ask you a few questions before a
search takes place, as this may quickly dispel the suspicions
removing the necessity to carrying out the search.
• Police Officers must use ‘Stop and Search’ powers fairly,
responsibly and without discrimination.
WHAT INFORMATION AM I ENTITLED TO
BEFORE THE SEARCH TAKES PLACE?
Before the search takes place, the Police Officer will tell you
that you have been detained for the purpose of a search. Although
this does not mean you have been arrested, you must remain with the
Police Officer until the search has been completed. The length of
time you are detained must be reasonable and kept to a minimum.
The Police Officer must also tell you:
• Their name and the station where
they work, unless the search is in relation to suspected terrorist
activity, or where giving his or her name may place the Officer in
danger. In these circumstances the Officer must provide their
identification number instead;
• Why they intend to search you;
• What they are looking for;
• The legal power or authority they are using;
• Your entitlement to a copy of the search record
• If the Police Officer is not in uniform, they must also show you
their warrant card.
HOW CAN I EXPECT TO BE TREATED WHEN
All ‘Stop and Searches’ must be carried out
with courtesy and consideration. The police should treat you with
respect and make every reasonable effort to minimise any
embarrassment you may experience during the search. However, ‘Stop
and Search’ is not voluntary and Police Officers do not need your
permission to search you or your belongings. If you refuse to
cooperate, you can be searched by force.
We are aware that the search may
take a little time but the process should be handled quickly and
professionally and your cooperation will assist with this.
If you are in a public place, Police Officers can only require you
to take off an outer coat, jacket and gloves. If they want you to
remove more than this, they can only require you to do so if they
take you somewhere out of public view, e.g. a police station. This
does not mean you are being arrested.
If a Senior Officer has authorised
the use of temporary search powers at a location and you are being
searched under these powers (this will be explained to you at the
time by the Police Officer), you could be required to remove
additional items in public. Where these temporary powers have been
introduced to prevent serious violence, this would be limited to
the further removal of any item worn to conceal identity, for
example face coverings.
Where there are religious
sensitivities about the removal of such an item or headgear for
example a face scarf, veil or turban, the Police Officer should
permit their removal out of public view. Where practicable, the
Officer should be of the same sex.
In any event, if you are required
to remove more than an outer coat, jacket, gloves, headgear,
footwear or any other item concealing your identity, then the
searching Officer must be of the same sex.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE SEARCH?
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 searched a copy. The record may be recorded
on a paper form or electronically. As a minimum, the Police Officer
is legally required to record:
1. Date, time and place of the search;
2. Your self defined ethnicity (if provided) / Observed
3. What they were looking for;
4. Their grounds for searching you / legal power or
5. The Officer’s details;
You will be asked if you want a copy and if you do, you will be
provided with one or given a receipt and details of how you can
obtain a copy. You can apply for a copy within three months of the
search taking place. If you are arrested and taken to a police
station, the details of the search will be recorded as part of your
custody record instead.
DO I HAVE TO GIVE MY NAME, ADDRESS OR DATE OF BIRTH?
The Police Officer may ask for your name, address and date of birth
before, during or after any search. You do not have to give this
information if you do not want to unless the Police Officer says
they are reporting you for an offence, in which case failure to
provide this information could lead to you being arrested. If you
are arrested you should provide this information as failure to do
so may delay your release.
WHY DO I HAVE TO SELF DEFINE MY OWN ETHNICITY?
Everyone who is stopped and searched will be asked to define his or
her 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 it is if you don’t want to, but the
Officer is legally required to record this on the form. The
ethnicity question helps ensure the police are using their powers
We review all the forms in relation to the ethnicity of the person
stopped. The process is subject to public scrutiny and all data is
depersonalised. Further information is available on www.herts.police.uk.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO
PROVIDING A RECORD OF A ‘STOP AND SEARCH’?
PACE requires an Officer to make a record of the ‘Stop and Search’
at the time. However, an Officer need not do this if there are
‘Exceptional Circumstances.’ This would include situations
involving public disorder or where the Officer’s presence is
urgently required elsewhere. In these circumstances the Officer
should record the details of the stop and search as soon as
DOES THIS MEAN I HAVE A POLICE RECORD?
No. The Officer is required to make a record of the search but this
does not amount to you having a police record.
Can a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) conduct a
PCSOs have limited powers to search individuals and can only
conduct searches under the following two situations.
1. Under the Police Reform Act 2000, PCSOs can search
individuals for alcohol and tobacco but only with that person’s
2. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, PCSOs can conduct searches of
vehicles under powers authorised by an Assistant Chief Constable
who considers it necessary to prevent acts of terrorism, providing
that the PCSO is under the supervision of a Police Officer.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM STOPPED OR/AND SEARCHED?
The police are aware that being searched is an inconvenience, and
that you’re probably in a hurry to get where you're
going. They should make the search as brief as
possible. But in the interest of public safety the
search must be thorough.
• Officers are entitled to be treated with dignity and
• Remember, you are not under arrest.
• The process is not voluntary - the law gives police the authority
to stop and search, when the Officers have reasonable suspicion to
• Officers do not need your permission to go through your
belongings - if you refuse, you can be searched by force.
• Try to stay calm and don’t be afraid to speak to the Officer if
you think your rights are being infringed.
HOW CAN I COMPLAIN?
Hertfordshire Constabulary should treat you in a professional
manner and with respect and dignity. If you are unhappy with the
way you are treated, we would like to hear from you.
If you feel you were treated
differently because of your race, nationality, ethnic background,
gender, sexual orientation, or disability you can complain of
direct or indirect race discrimination.
You can get advice from or make
• Hertfordshire Constabulary
• Any police station;
• Hertfordshire Police Crime Commissioner;
• Citizens Advice Bureau;
• A solicitor;
• Equality and Human Rights Commission;
• Independent Police Complaints Commission.
It will help if you keep the record / receipt and any other
information that the Police Officer/s gave you to you as they
contains information that will assist in the event of a
WHAT ABOUT OTHER TYPES OF POLICE ENCOUNTER?
All citizens have a civic duty to help the police prevent crime and
discover. Police Officers and PCSOs can stop and talk to you at any
time and not all encounters result in a person being
searched. Being spoken to does not necessarily mean
that you have done something wrong.
You should be treated with respect and dignity.
You have not been officially ‘stopped’ if, for example:
• An Officer approaches you and chats about local issues and
• You have witnessed a crime and are questioned about it to
establish the background to the incident
• You have been in an area where a crime recently occurred and are
questioned about what you might have seen
In addition to ‘Stop and Search’, you may also experience being
stopped whilst driving.
• VEHICLE STOP - The Road Traffic Act 1988 provides a police
Officer with the power to stop a vehicle at any time; to require a
driver to produce his or her driving license and other documents;
and also to require a breath test under certain circumstances. The
Officer may also speak to you about other road traffic offences
that you may have committed.
• Remember, if you or your vehicle is searched, the encounter
becomes a ‘Stop and Search’.
This is a guide to the 'stop and search' procedures. It
does not cover all of the law.