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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
- a Citizen's Advice Bureau
- your local Race Equality Council
- the Independent Police Complaints
- 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.
Asian or Asian British
- Other Asian background
Black or Black British
- Other Black background
Chinese or other ethnic group
- Any other ethnic group
- White and Black Caribbean
- White and Black African
- White and Asian
- Any other Mixed background
- 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