In today’s contemporary society, efficient and
effective policing plays a pivotal role in order to reduce crime and to keep the
public safe (Bowling, 2007). However, the goal of proficient policing cannot be
achieved without community participation and their willingness to share
information (Wolfe and Nix, 2016). Therefore, it is crucial that people
understand, when conducting stop and search, police are making legal decisions
(Weber and Bowling, 2014). Subsequently, police should understand that their everyday decisions
can have a profound negative influence on the general public, especially if
they are implemented poorly, with less consideration and or perceived to be
unjustified or unfair (Weber and Bowling,
2014). For this reason, this essay will further explore the police powers and
issues which may influence people’s opinion in the context of stop and search.

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Background of Stop and Search

Stop and search encounters date
back to the 1970s, with the implementation of ‘Suspicion Laws’ (commonly referred as “Sus Laws”) which originated
from the Vagrancy Act of 1824 (Yesufu,2013). Suspicion was an early aspect of
policing studies and has since become quite pervasive in cop culture (Weber and Bowling, 2014). However, police use their
perceptions to categorise individuals and suspicion which can lead to the exertion
of control and also it is intrinsically bound to an officer’s knowledge and preconception
(Weber and Bowling, 2014). Consequently,
this attitude has sometimes resulted in over policing and led to the eruption of
violent clashes such as Brixton Riots (1981), the Broadwater Farm Riots
in (1985) and the most recent London Riots (2011) which stems from the
perception that police only target a certain race (Yesufu,2013).

According to Petrocelli and et
al (2003), for a better understanding of
stop and search in the context of racial profiling, conflict theory could be
implemented to analyse the notion and execution of this highly debatable
practice. Conflict theory asserts that a particular social group with relative
power, dictates the social order to serve the interests of other privileged
groups and also control and suppress any section of society which possess a threat
to the status quo (Petrocelli and et al, 2003). Conflict
theory also states that the particular powerful group not only control
lawmakers but also control its law enforcement apparatuses (Petrocelli and et al, 2003).

Henceforth, if the law is viewed
as the nails that hold society together, then police can be seen as the hammer
of the state which can drive those nails in and can operate with an “iron fist”
as and when required (Petrocelli and et al, 2003). Ironically, if these
decisions undermine the legitimacy of the police, it could diminish the
public’s willingness to comply with the law of a given society (Weber and Bowling, 2014). Therefore, Bowling (2007),
argued that it is unhelpful and unrealistic to demand a perfect police service,
instead, the aim should be to challenge and re-evaluate the concepts of fair
and effective policing to achieve ‘good enough policing’. 


of Stop and Search Powers

The police have a range of
powers which they can execute to stop and search any member of the general
public (Strickland and Dar, 2014). The most widely used practice of stop and
search by police is under section 1
of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) (Home Office, 2017).


PACE is an investigative power tool which is
used to prevent and detect crime (Watch, 2013).
This power allows police to stop and search
people for stolen goods, possession of controlled drugs, offensive weapons and
or any other dangerous articles on the basis of ‘Reasonable Suspicion’ (Bland
and et al, 2000). Reasonable suspicion is clearly defined in PACE as a
safeguarding technique which helps police to protect the public whilst making
active decisions on intelligence led information and or evidence based on facts
(Santi and Duffy, 2016) while carrying out stop and search which varies from
case to case and their circumstances (Bland and et al, 2000). However,
reasonable suspicion should not be used on the bases of age, race, gender,
colour, ethnicity, nationality, previous conviction(s) or any other
stereotyping and unlawful discrimination as this approach does not fall into the
remit of PACE and is against the law (Bland and et al, 2000). Therefore, police
must understand the impact of stop and search tactics on the community they
monitor and use it with transparency and proportionally (Liberty, 2013).


In contrast to PACE, the two powers i-e Section
60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and Terrorism Act 2000 do not require police to have
reasonable suspicion to stop and search any individual (Strickland and Dar, 2014).


Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public
Order Act 1994 can only be authorised by a senior officer at a specific time in
a defined area on the supposition that there is potential for weapons and
violence to be involved (, 2018).
Nevertheless, to make the actions transparent, the Best Use of Stop and
Search Scheme (BUSS) was introduced in 2014 by the Home Secretary (Home Office, 2014). The main aims of this
scheme are to increase community involvement in stop and search tasks and focus
on an intelligence led approach to achieve a transparent and improved outcome
of the encounter (Home Office, 2014). The
Home Office (2014), further explains BUSS
as the following features to improve its credibility: data recording, lay
observation policies, stop and search complaints and reducing section 60 ‘no
suspicion’ stop and search by raising the rank of the authorising officer and
informing the public about the operation. Thus, by adopting this strategy under
section 60, stop and search tactics are considered beneficial and appear to
improve the public’s trust and their confidence in the police (Home Office, 2014).  


The Terrorism Act 2000 sections 43,44 and 47, allows a police officer to
stop and search any member of the public and or vehicles without any reasonable
suspicion, if he/she believes that a person is a terrorist and or may be involved
in terrorism related activities (Home Office,
2012). Similarly, Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 Section 53, empowers police, designated custom
officers and immigration officers to stop and question travellers at
ports, airports, or hover ports if they perceive a traveller/person as a terrorist
and or capable of carrying out such activities (ACPO,
2009).  However, the European
Court of Human Rights (ECHR), (2010), stated  that this rule is a violation of human rights,
therefore appropriate measures should be taken while conducting stop and search
tasks under the Terrorism Act 2000. Accordingly, the

Home Office (2012), issued a code of practice to
follow while exercising stop and search powers in the context of the Terrorism
Act 2000. This allowed police officers to reduce ‘suspicion-less stop and
searches’ and delivered comprehensive instructions which state that the use of
stop and search under the terrorism Act 2000 must be fair and should be used as
a last resort when there is no perceivable way to eliminate the threat (Home Office, 2012). So, as a safeguarding procedure
against the misuse of Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Office’s code of
practice manual offers thorough and clear advice to police officers, relevant
authorities and the community, about a fair and non-discriminatory stop and
search (Home Office, 2012). The manual states,
that while carrying out the encounter, a police officer should minimise the
embarrassment to an individual as much as they can as they may not have any
terrorist links and safeguard themselves and their surroundings if the threat
of terrorism erupts during the encounter (Home Office, 2012).


Similarly, it applies to immigration
officers and port staff as well, as not every person who is stopped and
questioned is a terrorist, therefore careful consideration should be taken
while searching and an explanation of the encounter should be given at the end
of the task (ACPO, 2009).  This strategy
will increase the public’s confidence in the police and relevant authorities
and also enables them to carry out the stop and search task peacefully and
efficiently (Home Office, 2012 and ACPO, 2009). Furthermore, it suggests
involving communities through their representatives, to explain that stop and
search under the Terrorism Act
2000 as a safeguarding tactic used against
terrorism, the necessity of stop and search, their co-operation and the importance
of information sharing with police through this task, as intelligence is the
life and blood of counter-terrorism measures (Home Office, 2012).       



and Search in the context of Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is defined by
law enforcement agencies as targeting people suspected of crime, based on their
nationality, religion and race (NIJ, 2013). Although this practice is widely
condemned, it increased after September 2011 terror attacks (Blumkin and
Margalioth, 2008). This argument is further supplemented by Walker (2008), who
stated that, under s44 stop and search, if there is no specific crime or
factual evidence against an individual rather than facts and intelligence, it
is highly likely that the attention could be drawn to personal characteristics,
also referred as racial profiling.

According to Ministry of
Justice’s data, members of racial minorities, particularly black, are far more
likely to be stopped by police compared to white people (Borooah, 2011). In the
year ending March 2017, members of Black and Minority Ethnicity (BME) were nearly
four times more likely to be stopped in comparison to white people (Home
Office, 2017).  Bowling and Phillips (2003), argued that apart from BME,
the most controversial stop and search group which are targeted by police are
‘immigrants’. However, this argument is more valid in the context of
international borders where passengers are required to submit their belongings
and passports in order to go through immigration, therefore they are more
likely to be questioned especially if they meet certain criteria and or are perceived
to be suspicious (ACPO, 2009). 


Another aspect which emerged
during the literature review is the racial influence of the officer who is conducting
the stop and search task while making public contact. This facet of stop and
search is broadly underrated in racial profiling studies (Cochran and Warren,
2012). Research has illustrated that white officers are more likely to make
arrests compared to black officers, but black officers are more likely to
arrest black people (Cochran and Warren, 2012). Cochran and Warren stated that
the reason behind the aforementioned research, suggests that minorities may lack
confidence and trust in police in comparison to white people, so when they face
a white officer conducting stop and search, they may perceive them as being unfair
and if they respond disrespectfully and aggressively it can result in the issue
of a warning, caution or an arrest (2012). However, there is no empirical data
found that can support this study, instead it is more manifest on police
behaviour and their enforcement of power execution whilst carrying out stop and
search (Cochran and Warren, 2012). 

Finally, in one Home Office
study a police officer argued that the stop and search approach is a
geographical issue rather than racial (EHRC, 2010).  Therefore, the
statistics may be distorting the overview because clearly ethnic minority
distribution varies dramatically based on geographical factors (EHRC, 2010). For
example, if there is an area with a black population of 99% and a high robbery rate
then the stop and search in that area would be black people (EHRC, 2010). EHRC
research evidence demonstrates that police often use skin colour as a reason
for stop and search tactics based on stereotyping and over-generalisation of certain
ethnic group’s involvement in specific crime (2010). Nonetheless, there is no
empirical study has shown that race has a direct influence on people’s opinion
about law enforcement (NIJ, 2016). Therefore, while conducting a stop and
search task, an officer should adopt ‘procedural
justice’ as this approach will enable them to
make impartial decisions based on the facts and then clarify those decisions to
the individual concerned (, 2016). This strategy not only
increases the public’s trust in the police but also demonstrates that they have
been treated fairly, in a non-discriminatory way, and with respect and dignity
(, 2016).



Stop and search law generally gives the police
powers, depending on their perceived suspicion, to randomly stop people and if considered
necessary search them (Bradford, 2017).  Thereafter,
if the perceived suspicion is no longer considered relevant, then the person
stopped would be allowed to go on their lawful way without any additional
investigation (Bradford, 2017). It also shows police’s participation in the
community, their willingness to protect the public and their awareness of the
surrounding environment (Bowling, 2007). However, Yesufu (2013) stated in his
studies that these symbolic police powers could be used against specific people/ethnicities/communities
regardless of any legal justification. To minimise this impression, police have
taken significant measures in stop and search practice which more effectively represents
fair and effective policing (, 2012).
Thus, when using these powers, police should act lawfully and according
to the National Decision Model (NDM), which provides an officer with relevant
guidance (, 2016). This
enables the officer to justly make the necessary decision whether to implement stop
and search, depending on the various circumstances and on a case by case
response, to achieve the objective appropriately and proportionately (, 2016).

Research has demonstrated that police
spend far more time in keeping peace than enforcing law (Delsol and
2015).  However, the maintenance of peace
may be clouded by the necessity of invoking legal powers, by force (Delsol and 2015). So, if defendants do not cooperate
and submit to police authority, officers can invoke their legal powers, and no
amount of assurance or public relation work can fully eradicate the perception
that there is something of the dragon in the dragon-slayer (Delsol and 2015). Inversely, if police do not function
within the remit of their powers, it weakens the public’s will to comply with the
law (Weber and Bowling, 2014). Therefore,
a balanced and reformed approach should be implemented while carrying out law
enforcement actions (Home Office, 2012). 

Bowling (2007), compared this
trend with ‘good parenting’. He stated that there is a link between ‘good
enough parenting’ and ‘good enough policing’ as perfection is impossible to
achieve but should be the ultimate goal. Bowling suggested that, as parents
strive to be good to their children by looking after them, they provide
protection, commitment, love and try to act in the best interests and welfare
of the child (2007). The vast majority of parents strive to be ‘good enough
parent’ and raise their children as responsible and law-abiding citizens (Bowling,
2007). However, not all parents are capable of providing these elements to
their children, as some are neglectful, cruel, or even murderous (Bowling,

Likewise, it could be argued
that police act like the parents of society who are determined to act in the
best interest of their citizens (Bowling, 2007).  They do not have the luxury of time, so
sometimes they must make complex decisions in a split second or within a very
limited time constraint (Bowling, 2007). Consequently, they may make some
decisions which are antithesis to fair and just policing (Bowling, 2007). However, they are human beings
and perfection is not within reach of ordinary humans, thus, the decisions
might not be suitable in some situations, but it does not undermine their ultimate
goal which is to protect society, keeping peace and combating crime (Bowling,










Police have a range of legal powers that
empowers them to carry out stop and search tasks when there is a predetermined need
or based on reasonable suspicion. However, the latter does not apply in all
cases, therefore the Home Office and UK government have taken several measures
against the misuse of these powers. These measures safeguard and involve the community
in stop and search tactics and also provide them with the opportunity to share
their concerns regarding any particular issue. The Home Office have also taken
into consideration the racial profiling aspect, while exercising stop and
search power which is often reported to be mostly targeted on black and
minority ethnic communities. However, research demonstrated that race does not
have any direct influence in stop and search, instead it is more geographical.
For this reason, police follow the NDM and ‘procedural justice’ approach when
they make decisions to carry out stop and search encounters. Ironically, if
police undermine the legitimacy of these decisions, the public tends to gravitate
towards noncompliance of the law. Thus, the police have a high level of
responsibility to invoke legal powers within their remit to maintain the peace
and security of the public. Therefore, society should understand the importance
of enforcing such powers and cooperate when requested to submit themselves, as
this strategy will help the police to protect the public and fight crime. Consequently,
it can be argued that although stop and search is a controversial law, if
implemented correctly, it serves the purpose of safeguarding and protecting,
not only the general public, but also infrastructure and the environment (Bland and et al, 2000).

In addition, though the police have been repackaged from ‘force’ to
‘service’ and strive to achieve the notion of
‘good policing’ (Bowling,2007) it still remains a ‘dirty work occupation’
which has to deal with ‘inherently continuous situations’ as part of their daily
routine and legal duties (Delsol and 2015).

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