Stop and Search

Best Use of Stop & Search Scheme


Jump to FAQs:

What does a police 'stop and search' involve?

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 I'm searched?

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 ethnicity?

Are there any exceptions to providing a record of a 'stop and search'?

Does this mean I have a police record?

What does this mean if I am stopped or/and searched?

How can I complain?

What about other types of police encounter?





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;


• Drugs;
• Weapons;
• Stolen property;
• Items which could be used to commit burglary, theft or deception;
• 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 property;
• Articles connected with terrorism.


If an Officer of at least Chief Officer rank 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.



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 searched.


Police Officers can use their powers of ‘Stop and Search’ in public places and in some circumstances, private locations as well.Stop and Search


Why me?


• 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 reasonable grounds 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 them.
• ‘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.



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.



Stop and SearchAll ‘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.




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 ethnicity;
3.   What they were looking for;
4.   Their grounds for searching you / legal power or authority used;
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. 


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.


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 fairly.

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



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 practicable.


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 search?

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 consent.
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.



Be patient

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.

Be calm

• Officers are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect
• 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 do so.
• 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.


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 complaints to:


• Hertfordshire Constabulary on  Telephone 101;
• 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 complaint.


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 priorities
• 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.