Police sometimes have to stop people and ask them to account for their actions or their presence in an area. This is referred to as Stop and Account.

Police also may need to carry out a search of that individual’s clothing or property. This is referred to as Stop and Search.

Both these powers are used by police in order to detect and prevent crime and keep our communities safer.

We want to be open, honest and accountable, and so a record is always issued to the person involved explaining why a stop or a search was carried out.

This section aims to help you understand stop and search procedures, the type of behaviour you should expect from the police and in return, what the police expect from you.


Who can stop you?

  • a police officer; or
  • a police community support officer.

A police community support officer must be in uniform. A police officer does not have to be in uniform, but if they are not wearing uniform they must show you their identity (warrant) card.

You should not be stopped or searched just because of:

  • your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or faith
  • the way you look or dress, the language you speak
  • because you have committed a crime in the past.

If you believe this is why you were stopped or searched, you can complain.


What is a stop?

A 'stop' is when a police officer or police community support officer stops you and asks you to account for yourself. That is, if they ask you to tell them:

  • what you are doing
  • why you are in an area or where you are going
  • what you are carrying.

The officer must fill in a form saying why you were stopped and give you a copy.

Not every time a police officer or police community support officer talks to you will count as a stop. For example, if the officer:

  • is looking for witnesses
  • asks you for general information about an incident
  • is giving you directions.

This does not count as a stop and the officer would not normally fill in a form. But even in this case if you want to you can ask for a form and the officer must fill one out and give it to you.


Your right to a form

If you are stopped or searched the officer must fill in a form and give it to you straightaway unless, for example, they are called away to an emergency. In this case you can get a copy from a police station anytime within 12 months.

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
  • if you were searched, what they were looking for and anything they found.

The police will ask you for your name, address and date of birth. You do not have to give this information if you do not want to, unless the police say they are reporting you for an offence. If this is the case you could be arrested if you don't tell them.

You will also be asked to say what your ethnic background is from a list of the national census categories which the officer will show to you. You do not have to say what it is if you don't want to. But this information is used to show if the police are stopping or searching people just because of their race or ethnicity.


How can I complain?

The police 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, sexuality, gender, disability, religion or faith, you can complain of unlawful discrimination.

It will help if you keep the form that the police gave you.

You can get advice from, or complain to:

  • Norfolk Constabulary at a police station or ring 101
  • a Citizen's Advice Bureau
  • your local Race Equality Council
  • the Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • the Commission for Racial Equality
  • a solicitor.

If you have difficulty understanding English, or if you are deaf, then the police must take reasonable steps to ensure that you understand your rights.


National Census categories

Asian or Asian British

  • Indian
  • Bangladeshi
  • Pakistani
  • Other Asian background

Black or Black British

  • Caribbean
  • African
  • Other Black background

Chinese or other ethnic group

  • Chinese
  • Any other ethnic group


  • White and Black Caribbean
  • White and Black African
  • White and Asian
  • Any other Mixed background


  • British
  • Irish
  • Any other White background

Please note: This is a guide to the Stop and Search and Stop and Account procedures. It does not cover all of the law.