Stop and Search

What is ‘stop and search’?

You can be stopped and searched when an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that you are carrying:

  • drugs, weapons or stolen property; or
  • items which could be used to commit a crime.

Sometimes officers can stop and search you within a specific area without any reasonable grounds if it is believed that serious violence could take place, or offensive weapons are being carried or have been used or a terrorist threat has been identified.

The officer must explain this to you and must be searching for weapons or items which could be used in connection with violence or terrorism.

A screening (knife) arch is not a stop and search. You can’t be forced to go through, but refusal may result in further officer action or even a full search.

Please note that an officer can confiscate cigarettes or alcohol in view(even if it is in a container) if you are underage. This is not a stop and search.


Who can ‘stop and search’ you?

• a police officer who must be in uniform if the search is related to terrorism or serious violent crime – if they are not in uniform, they must show you their identity card; or

• a PCSO, but only if the search is related to terrorism, they are in uniform and with a police officer.

How should a stop and search be carried out?

Before you are searched, the officer must take all reasonable steps to ensure that you understand:

  • that you must wait to be searched;
  • what law they are using and your rights;
  • their name and ID number;
  • the station they work at;
  • why they stopped you;
  • what they are looking for; and
  • your right to a receipt.

The officer can ask you to take off more than an outer coat, jacket or gloves, and anything you wear for religious reasons, such as a face scarf, veil or turban, but only if they take you somewhere out of public view. You can ask that the officer who searches you is the same sex as you.

It does not mean you are being arrested.


What is recorded and your right to a receipt

If you are searched you have the right to a receipt and the officer

must record the following details:

• how you describe your ethnic background;

• when and where you were stopped or searched;

• why you were stopped or searched;

• the names and/or numbers of the officers; and

• if you were searched, what they were looking for.


The officer might ask you for your name, address and date of birth.

You do not have to give these unless you are being arrested or reported for an offence.

You will be given a receipt and it is important to keep this as you will need it if you wish to make a complaint or see the full record of the stop and search at a later date.


What if you are in a vehicle?

Your vehicle can be stopped at any time and you may be asked to show your driving documents.

If searched you must receive a written record or receipt.


What can you do if you are unhappy about how you were treated?

The officer should treat you fairly and with respect.

 If you are unhappy with how you were treated, you can complain. If you feel you were treated differently because of your race, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion or faith, you can complain. It will help if you keep the receipt that the police gave you.

You can get advice about how to make a complaint from:

• a police station;

• your local police authority;

• a Citizen’s Advice Bureau;

• the Independent Police Complaints


• the Equality and Human Rights

Commission; or

• a solicitor.

All Police Forces are required to collect data about the Stop & Searches conducted by their officers. This is then submitted to the Home Office and includes data on the ethnicity of people searched, the reasons for the searches and the umbers leading to an arrest. The Home Office (via the Office for National Statistics) then publish Stop & Search data for all forces on an annual basis.

The use of Stop & Search by South Yorkshire Police is subject to management scrutiny on a regular basis to ensure the power is being used proportionately and ethically. Where disproportionality in respect of ethnicity occurs, we will take action to reduce that disproportionality, improve the knowledge of our staff and to engage with any affected communities. South Yorkshire Police Authority also regularly hold the Force to account with regard to Stop & Search usage and external scrutiny is provided by such as the Equalities and Human Rights Commission through their Stop and Think report.