Stop and Search

South Yorkshire Police has a clear vision for Stop and Search: To achieve the highest level of trust and confidence in its use to tackle crime and keep our streets safe.

Consequently, Stop and Search in South Yorkshire has become significantly more effective and targeted, leading to better outcomes.

Stop and Search is a key policing power, which assists us to protect our communities by identifying and eliminating violent and key crimes including anti-social behaviour.

We invite you to work with us by letting us know what you think about the way in which we use Stop and Search so give us your feedback to ensure that we continue to use Stop and Search fairly and effectively and to the satisfaction of our communities.

We publish Stop and Search data, get the data here

For additional data, please visit Police.uk from which you may obtain Stop and Search statistics for South Yorkshire.

National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) guidance on stop and search.

 

The following list of questions, with answers further down the page, will assist your understanding Stop and Search and its use by South Yorkshire Police:

·        What exactly is a Stop and Search?

·        Are there any examples of what isn’t a Stop and Search?

·        Why would I be stopped and searched?

·       Do the police really need to use Stop and Search?

·        What does a police Stop and Search involve?

·        What are my rights and responsibilities and what should I expect?

·        What information am I entitled to before the search takes place?

·        Do I have a right to complain?

·        Where can I obtain advice if I am considering making a complaint?

·        What is the best use of Stop and Search scheme?

·        What is considered to be a fair and effective Stop Search?

·        How are the outcomes from Stop and Search used?

·        Community Engagement

·       Are there any statistics available to look at? 

·        Can police conduct searches relating to acts of terrorism?

·       Where can I be searched?

·       Do Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) conduct searches?

·       What happens after the search?

·       Why would I be asked to self-define my ethnicity?

·       Do I have to give my name, address or date of birth?

·        Will I have a police record if I am Stopped and Searched?
 

WHAT EXACTLY IS A STOP AND SEARCH?

There are three different types of ‘stops’:

1.     Stop and Account.

Police Officers can stop and talk to people at any time and not all encounters result in a person being searched. 

Being spoken to doesn’t necessarily mean that you have done something wrong.

When a police officer or Police Community Support Officer stops you in a public place and asks you to account for yourself they may ask you the following questions:

  • What are you doing?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
  • What are you carrying?

2.     Stop and Search

When a police officer stops a person or vehicle then searches them, their vehicle, their clothes or anything they are carrying. Officers must have a good reason for stopping them and they should tell them what this is.

Stop and Search is governed by Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

PACE  sets out how and when searches should take place. The law requires officers to have reasonable grounds to suspect an individual of being in possession of articles that amount to evidence of an offence before searching them. Where such grounds exist, we will search individuals in order to prevent and detect crime and make our communities safer.

In South Yorkshire, we target Stop and Search in places where intelligence tells us that offenders are operating or where we know that crimes are being committed. Police officers use their professional judgment to decide if it is necessary to carry out a Stop and Search.

3.     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 their driving license and other documents; and 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.

You may be given documentation relevant to road traffic matters, however such a stop is not regarded as a Stop & Search. 

It becomes a stop or a stop and search if: 

  • you or any passengers with you are asked to account for themsleves; or
  • a search is carried out of the vehicle, you or any passengers with you.

In all cases, the police officer or Police Community Support Officer must explain why you are being stopped and held to account for your actions or presence in an area. 
 

ARE THERE ANY EXAMPLES OF WHAT ISN’T A STOP AND SEARCH?

There are plenty of occasions when you might talk to the police, most of which would not qualify as either a ‘stop and account’ or ‘stop and search’, for example:

  • You stop an officer to ask for directions or information
  • You have witnessed a crime and are questioned about it to establish the background to the incident
  • An officer approaches you and chats about local issues and priorities
  • You have been in an area when a crime recently occurred and are questioned about what you might have seen

In cases such as those above, a record of the encounter will not be made and you will not receive a receipt.

WHY WOULD I BE STOPPED AND SEARCHED?

Being stopped and searched doesn’t mean that a person is under arrest or has done anything wrong. In some cases, people are stopped and searched as part of an intelligence led effort to catch criminals.

A police officer must have a good reason to suspect that a person is in possession of articles that could amount to evidence of an offence before searching them. 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.

Stop and Search enables police officers to quickly allay or confirm suspicion about individuals without the need to first make an arrest. The officer may ask a person a few questions before a search takes place, as this may quickly dispel the suspicions removing the necessity to carrying out the search.
 

DO THE POLICE REALLY NEED TO USE STOP AND SEARCH?

As previously mentioned, Stop and Search is essential to assisting the fight against crime and South Yorkshire Police is committed to the appropriate use of the full range of Stop and Search powers provided by law to look for items such as stolen property, drugs, offensive weapons or tools used to commit crime.

Our weapon searches seek to remove knives, firearms and other offensive weapons from circulation, to prevent serious harm.  

South Yorkshire Police believes the use of the power deters, disrupts and detects criminal activity, street crime and antisocial behavior. In doing so, it secures safety, justice and reassurance for all, helping to catch criminals, keep people safe and build public trust and confidence.

Accurate recording provides us with an understanding of where, when and on whom our searches are being conducted. This is essential to enable us to identify any occurrences of disproportionality.  Misuse of the power and related complaints are not tolerated.  
 

WHAT DOES A POLICE STOP AND SEARCH INVOLVE?

A police officer may only search a person if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they will find any of the following:

• 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

Police officers have powers to search a 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, the owner may apply for compensation and each application will be considered on its own merit.

If a person is searched in a public place, police officers may only require them to take off an outer coat, jacket and gloves. If they want the person to remove more than this, they can only require them to do so if they take the person somewhere out of public view, for example to a police station. This does not mean the person is being arrested.

If a senior officer (usually Assistant Chief Constable or above) believes that there will be serious violence or persons carrying weapons in a particular area, temporary powers under S60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, may be authorised.  This means anyone in that area (in a specified location) may be searched for weapon.  In this instance, police officers undertaking the stop and search do not need to have reasonable grounds for each of the persons searched. Any person searched under S60 will have the reason explained to them by the searching officer.

If a person is required to remove more than an outer coat, jacket, gloves, headgear, footwear or any other item concealing their identity, then the searching officer must be of the same sex. Where there are religious sensitivities about the removal of items of headgear such as a veil or turban, the Police Officer should permit their removal out of public view. Where practicable, the officer should be of the same sex.

All officers are trained in the lawful use of Stop and Search and officers must treat those they search with courtesy, respect and dignity.
 

WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES AND WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?

Here is a basic rundown of things to protect you:

  • The officers searching you must use the Stop and Search powers fairly, responsibly and with respect, without discriminating making every reasonable effort to minimise any embarrassment the person may experience during the search. However, Stop and Search is not voluntary and police officers do not need permission to search a person or their belongings. If a person refuses to cooperate, they can be searched by force
  • If English is not your first language and you do not understand why you have been stopped, reasonable steps must be taken to provide you with information in your own language
  • The officer must make sure that the search time is kept to a minimum
  • The search must take place near where you are stopped, unless it is to move you to protect your privacy
  • The officer does not have the power to stop you in order to find grounds for a search
  • All Stop and Searches must be carried out with courtesy and consideration. The police should treat the person searched with respect 
  • We are aware that the search may take a little time and is an inconvenience but the process should be handled quickly and professionally. If you are searched, please be patient your cooperation will assist with this. Try to stay calm and speak to the officer if you need to know anything
  • Supervisors are expected to monitor their officers interactions with members of the public to ensure they are conducted professionally. They must ensure that Stop and Search is used appropriately, targeting the areas where crime is being committed
  • Remember, everyone has a civic duty to help police officers to prevent crime and catch offenders. The fact that the police may have stopped someone does not mean they are guilty of an offence.

WHAT INFORMATION AM I ENTITLED TO BEFORE THE SEARCH TAKES PLACE?

Before a search, the officer must inform the person that they will be detained for the purpose of a search. Whilst this does not mean that they are under arrest, they must remain with the police officer until the search is complete.

The length of time they are detained must be reasonable and kept to a minimum.

The police officer must also tell them:

  •  Their name and the station where they work, unless the search is in relation to suspected terrorist activity or where giving their name may place the officer in danger. In these circumstances the officer must provide their identification number instead
  • Why they intend to search that person
  • What they are looking for
  • The legal power or authority they are using
  • The persons entitlement to a copy of the search record
  • If the police officer is not in uniform, they must also show their warrant card.

DO I HAVE A RIGHT TO COMPLAIN?

Yes, it is your right to complain if you feel that you have not been treated appropriately.

It is never appropriate to stop and/or search a person on the basis of ‘Protected Characteristics’. These are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

It will help if you keep the copy of the Stop and Search record that you may obtain within three months of the search.  A record may be obtained at a police station.

WHERE CAN I OBTAIN ADVICE IF I AM CONSIDERING MAKING A COMPLAINT?

You can get advice from or make complaints to

  • South Yorkshire Police by calling 101or complain on line here
  • South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Any police station
  • A solicitor
  • Citizens Advive Bureau
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Independent Police Complaints Commission.

WHAT IS THE BEST USE OF STOP AND SEARCH SCHEME?

In August, 2014, the Home Secretary launched the voluntary Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme

The principal aims of the Scheme are to achieve greater transparency, community involvement in the use of stop and search powers and to support a more intelligence-led approach, leading to better outcomes, for example, an increase in the stop and search to positive outcome ratio.

South Yorkshire Police is a voluntary signatory and is committed to working towards its implementation.

We will continue to work with our communities and stakeholders to increase effectiveness and public confidence, improve the quality of the encounter and ensure Stop and Search continues to protect our communities.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED TO BE A FAIR & EFFECTIVE STOP SEARCH?

We recognise the College of Policing’s definition of a fair and effective Stop Search.

A Stop and Search is most likely to be fair and effective when:

  • the search is justified, lawful and stands up to public scrutiny
  • the officer has genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion they will find a prohibited article or item for use in crime;
  • the person understands why they have been searched and feels that they have been treated with respect;
  • the search was necessary and was the most proportionate method the Police Officer could use to establish whether the person has such an item.

HOW ARE THE OUTCOMES FROM STOP AND SEARCH USED?

The effectiveness of Stop and Search may be measured in a variety of ways from arrests to ‘out of court disposals’ to the more difficult to quantify, such as crime prevention.

Police and community relations are an indirect measure of the effectiveness of Stop and Search. If the use of Stop and Search causes a loss of confidence within the community, then the principle of policing by consent is undermined and the ability of the police to work in partnership with the community to tackle crime is reduced.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

To gain an insight into how South Yorkshire Police engages with communities to build trust and confidence have a look at our Community Engagement strategy

ARE THERE ANY STATISTICS AVAILABLE?

Yes.  Importantly, please note that South Yorkshire Police does not set numeric Stop and Search targets.  We believe that if we were to attribute any such targets, this may have the unintended consequence of influencing officers’ decisions to conduct Stop and Search.

Our officers recognise that the power must only be used when the level of suspicion requires it in accordance with the law. 

We place emphasis on the quality of the encounter as opposed to the quantity of stops and searches conducted.

We publish data on our website. Get the data here.

For additional data, please visit Police.uk from which you may obtain Stop and Search statistics for South Yorkshire. Just click on 'Find your Neighbourhood', enter your postcode, click 'Stop and Search' and then 'Stop and Search overview for South Yorkshire Police'.
 

CAN POLICE CONDUCT SEARCHES RELATING TO ACTS OF TERRORISM?

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. They may 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 anything found is to remain in force beyond 48 hours.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) in South Yorkshire 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.

WHERE CAN I BE SEARCHED?

Police officers can use their powers of Stop and Search in public places and in some circumstances, private locations as well. If the search requires the removal of more than an outer coat, jacket or gloves then the search should take place out of public view and in some circumstances it may be more appropriate to be conducted at a police station.

DO POLICE COMMUNITY SUPPORT OFFICERS (PCSO) CONDUCT SEARCHES?

PCSOs have limited powers to search individuals and can only conduct searches under the following two situations.

1.     Under the Police Reform Act 2000, PCSO's can search individuals for alcohol and tobacco but only with that person’s consent. The act does not confer a power of search. Where designated, a PCSO may seize and retain a psychoactive substance where they are conducting a search under existing designated powers. The Act does not confer a power of search.

2.     Under the Terrorism Act 2000, where designated and under the supervision of a Police Officer, PCSOs may conduct searches of vehicles where authorized if it is considered necessary to prevent acts of terrorism.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE SEARCH?

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) require police officers to make a record of every search they conduct at the time.

As a minimum, the police officer is legally required to record:

  • Date, time and place of search
  • The person's self-defined ethnicity (if provided) observed ethnicity (if not provided)
  • What they were looking for
  • Their grounds for searching / legal power or authority used
  • The officer's details. 

The person will be asked if they wish to obtain a copy. If they do, as South Yorkshire Police operates a paperless system of recording, the person searched will receive a receipt with details of how they may obtain a copy within three months of the search taking place.

ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO PROVIDING A STOP AND SEARCH RECORD?

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) requires an officer to make a record of the Stop and Search at the time. However, an officer does not need to 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.

WHY WOULD I BE ASKED TO SELF-DEFINE MY ETHNICITY?

Everyone who is stopped and searched will be asked to define their ethnic background. They can choose from a list of national census categories that the officer will show them.

The person does not have to say what their ethnicity is if they 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.

DO I HAVE TO GIVE MY NAME, ADDRESS OR DATE OF BIRTH?

The police officer may ask for a person’s name, address and date of birth before, during or after any search.

They do not have to give this information if they do not want to unless the Police Officer says they are reporting the person for an offence, in which case failure to provide this information could lead to an arrest.

WILL I HAVE A POLICE RECORD IF I AM STOPPED AND SEARCHED?

No. The officer is required to make a record of the search but this does not mean the person searched will have a police record.

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

Useful links here:

Home office stop and search statistics 2014-15

Hanstock Stop and Search update

The Chief Constable's public encounters plan