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Avon and Somerset Police

If you are stopped or searched it doesn’t mean you have done something wrong. But a police officer must have a good reason for stopping or searching you and should tell you what this is.

There are occasions when police officers can search anyone within a certain area, for example when there is evidence that serious violence could take place there, or a terrorist threat has been identified. The officer should explain this to you and must be searching for items to be used in connection with terrorism or violence.

You should not be stopped just because of your gender, age, race, ethnic background, nationality, religion or faith, the way you look, the language you speak or because you have committed a crime in the past. If you believe this is the case, you can complain. (See “How can I Complain?”) The only exception to this would be on very rare occasions where there is a specific terrorist threat.

If you are stopped and searched, the police must offer you a receipt straightaway allowing you to obtain a written record at a later date unless, for example, they are called away to an emergency. The police must write down:

  • the date, time and place of the stop or search;
  • why they stopped or searched you;
  • what they were looking for.
  • the names and/or numbers of the officers; and
  • your self-defined ethnic background;

The police will ask for your name and date of birth. You do not have to give this information if you don’t 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 the list of national census categories (available below). You do not have to say what it is if you don’t want to. But this information helps show if the police are stopping and searching people just because of their race or ethnicity.

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, nationality, ethnic background, you can complain of direct or indirect race discrimination.

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

You can get advice from, or complain to:

  • your local police station;
  • your local police authority;
  • a Citizen’s Advice Bureau;
  • your local Race Equality Council;
  • the Commission for Racial Equality; or
  • a solicitor
  • NTPA