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Stop and search - a public briefing

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In 2013, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published the report "Stop and search powers: are the police using them effectively? (opens in a new window)"  

The objectives

The objectives of the 2013 report were: 

  • to determine how effectively and fairly the police service were using the powers of stop and search in the fight against crime;
  • to establish whether operational police officers knew how to use stop and search powers tactically to fight crime; and
  • to identify how the powers can be used in a way that builds the public‘s trust in the police.

The report identified a number of areas for improvement nationally. In 2014, the then Home secretary, Mrs Theresa May, outlined a package of reforms (best use of stop and search) which included: 

  • External scrutiny of stop and search records by local communities
  • No targets for officers for stop and search
  • Recording the link between the object of the search and its outcome (arrests, cautions, penalty notices for disorder and all other disposal types)
  • Lay observation policies – offers members of the public the opportunity to accompany police officers on ‘ride along’ schemes so they may be able to see for themselves the grounds for stop searches
  • A stop and search complaints community trigger - a local complaint policy requiring the police to explain to the local community how the powers are being used where there is a large volume of complaints
  • Changes to section 60 stop and searches
  • Review of national training and introduction of an assessment of officers’ fitness to use stop and search powers
  • Revision of PACE Code A to clarify what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’
  • Stop search data
  • Annual general HMIC inspections for forces to include stop and search.  

Where are we now?

We have made a number of changes to comply with the 2013 recommendations and the best use of stop and search 2014 scheme as outlined above.

These are:

Revision of PACE Code A

This is the legal power to stop and search. The revised Code A came into effect on 19th March, 2015. It clarifies the “reasonable grounds for suspicion” and the legal test a police officer must satisfy before they can stop and detain individuals or vehicles to search. The revised Code A has been cascaded to all officers so that they are all aware of the new code.


All stop and search encounters are monitored by supervisors and are subject to a monthly audit to ensure compliance with Code A. Quality feedback is given along with any learning points to officers.

Recording the link between the object of search and its outcome 

Our stop and search forms and recording processes were amended to capture the information and this is subject to scrutiny by supervisors and managers. We also measure arrest rates, outcome rates and objects of search linked to outcome. General information is published on the website under performance data.


The College of Policing is responsible for designing national training guidelines. Specific focus has been given to providing training to front line supervisors.

Improved intelligence

Where stop and searches are conducted and intelligence is gained as a result of the encounter, this is fed into the intelligence system by the searching officer. Information captured during stop and search encounters is analysed to help fight crime.

Targets for officers

There are no numerical targets relating to stop and search encounters. This fact has been underlined by senior management.


We have implemented a mobile app to record stop and search encounters in real time and some stop and search encounters are captured on body worn video cameras to provide a visual reference.

Lay observation policy

We operate a ride along scheme which allows members of the public to accompany and observe police officers on duty. There is no guarantee, however, that they will observe a stop and search encounter.

How to complain

Complaints about stop & Search encounters can be made in a number of ways. ADD CONTENT HERE ABOUT MAKING A COMPLAINT.

Community complaints trigger

Each complaint receives particular attention from the Head of Public Complaints and the local Chief Inspector and, if considered appropriate, steps are taken to inform the community how and why the powers are being used. Complaints may also be reviewed by a scrutiny panel.

External scrutiny of stop and search

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Hertfordshire has formed a scrutiny panel to examine police use of stop search in Hertfordshire. The panel examines the compliance with PACE Code A, the proportion of searches that result in a positive outcome and what those outcomes were. They may also review complaints.

The panel is made up of members of the community. Minutes, agendas and terms of reference are available on the PCC website (opens in a new window).

Section 60 stop and searches

This is a special power under section 60 (S60) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1999 that is used when there is good reason to believe that serious violence will  take place at a public event. This means that anyone in the authorised area (near a football ground, for example) may be searched for weapons without the police officer needing to have reasonable grounds that the individual is in possession of weapons.

Previously, an Inspector could authorise use of this power. It can now only be authorised by a senior officer (Assistant Chief Constable or above). It is time limited to 15 hours initially, although extensions can be authorised up to 24 hours. The public will be notified before (where practicable) and after the authorisation has expired.

Recording stop and search data 

There is a requirement to capture and report more detailed data relating to searches involving the removal of more than outer coat, jacket and gloves and exposure of intimate body parts.  A search involving exposure of intimate body parts requires authorisation by a supervising officer.

We have put in place a recording measure to capture this information and have updated our ICT systems to ensure accurate recording.  This Information will form part of the annual data requirement to ensure that the public can see whether or not the way the police conduct stop and search is lawful and appropriate.  It will also be provided to the Police and Crime Commissioner and community representatives of the external scrutiny panel.

The fair and effective use of the Police Reform Act 2002

Police and community support officers have authority to stop and seize alcohol and tobacco from any person who is under the age of 18.

We have put in place a recording system to capture and report this information.

Adding stop and search data to

The website (opens in a new window) allows members of the public to view crime recording for their local area.

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