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Make Sure You Know What to Do if You Get Stopped and Searched

Some useful advice for everyone…

A couple of weeks ago, Hideaway youth worker Courtney Wallace shared his experiences of the police’s stop and search activity in Moss Side. He’s been searched more times than he can remember – click here to read his story.

Whether you think that stop and search is a useful tool for the police to use to decrease the risk of terrorism and other violent acts or you think it’s unhelpful and discriminative, you must agree that it’s best to know your rights and how to conduct yourself in the event of one, right?

Yeah? Ok, here’s what you need to know if you get stopped by the police.


The best thing to do, is to remain calm and polite. You’d be amazed how much better a situation is when the police realise that you’re just a normal person who isn’t aggressive, arrogant or a criminal. If you feel yourself getting a bit worked up concentrate on your breathing.


Remember, unless you actually get arrested for something, this is a chat not a confrontation. And it can be a friendly chat! Despite the shiny uniform and the baton and the slightly suspicious glare, police officers are just humans (like you and I and everyone else). So, when they are asked reasonable questions they’ll nearly always give reasonable answers.

Make sure you find out why you’ve been stopped; on what legal grounds you’ve been stopped on, what is the officer looking for (i.e. “a tool to steal a car” or “a bag of green”), the officer’s ID number, and any other reasonable questions you may have. It’s also a good idea to answer any questions they have (i.e. “Where have you just come from?”). But you don’t have to give them your name or any other personal deets unless you are arrested.


This one is important: If you get searched, the officers must give you a receipt; a written slip (which looks a bit like a speeding ticket) that documents the exchange. This is your proof of what happened and you might need it later if you want to make a complaint. So, be sure to keep hold of it.

If the officer is recording the meeting electronically he/she will give you a card with a reference number you can use to claim your receipt. If for some mad reason, like the officer gets rushed away to an emergency, you don’t get your receipt you have three months to claim it from the police station.


If you are feeling intimidated, threatened or just want to make a clear record of proceedings, you are well within your rights to whip out your phone and start recording the exchange. However, politeness and explaining what you are doing is key here; it’s probs not a good idea to suddenly reach into your pocket without warning. Remember that the officers could feel threatened too, so explain what you are doing before you go for the phone.

As long as you don’t get in the way of the police doing their job (this could be misconstrued as obstruction which is an offence) filming isn’t a bad idea; it’s in everyone’s interests.

If you are concerned about the police’s activity in your area you can contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission by clicking here.  

Featured image credit: African Voice Newspaper

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