The following post is an example of the sort of educational guidance I will be adding to the SC Resource Centre that will be available soon. Your thoughts please.
The subject of Police use of Stop and Search is a controversial one which has in the past been of national interest. The power to stop and search a person is a very very powerful tool in a Police Officer’s tool box and its correct use has resulted in some very good results.
Historically stop and search was used discriminately against specific sections of the community and this along with other factors caused a breakdown in relations between the public and Police. Evidence of this can be found within the report into the Brixton Riots written in 1981 by Lord Scarman. Following the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 a report was written by Sir William Macpherson and in this report stop and search was also highlighted.
Modern day Police Officers receive specific training around stop and search. This training covers everything from deciding if sufficient grounds exist for a search to take place, the conduct of the search and most importantly the justification and recording of a search.
In this session I am going to examine the areas an officer must consider and / or do to conduct a LAWFUL search of a suspect on the street. I would also recommend to student officers that you read and get to understand Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which covers Police powers of stop and search.
Officers conducting a stop and search will work through a process that has been given the name GO WISELY and we will examine this step by step. At the end of this session there is a video courtesy of the Metropolitan Police that demonstrates a stop and search. Having read this you should be able to see how the officer works through GO WISELY.
As long as GO WISELY is followed the order is not important but I personally go with the following (you will find your own style). It is vital that this process is adopted for every street based stop and search as failure to do so will render the search unlawful and you as the officer could be subject to a assault allegation.
G – GROUNDS (Why do you suspect the person to be responsible for an offence)
You are out on foot patrol when you receive information that a person has been seen handing small packets of white powder to other persons in exchange for cash. It is believed that this package is illegal drugs. The person has been described as being a white female, aged in her mid 20’s. She is 5ft 5in tall and is of thin build with shoulder length brown hair. She is wearing a brown leather jacket and blue jeans. A short while later in a nearby street you see a person matching this description and you approach them as you have good grounds to suspect that this is the person reported. You stop them AND;
I – IDENTITY (Identity Of The Officer) & S – Station (Station Where The Officer Is Attached)
You introduce yourself. “Hello. I am ……………………………. And I am attached to ………….. Police Station. The reason that I have stopped you is because we have had a report of someone matching your description who has recently been seen what was believed to be selling drugs”.
(YOU WILL NOTICE THAT DURING THIS INTRODUCTION STAGE I HAVE EXPLAINED MY GROUNDS FOR STOPPING HER)
W – WARRANT CARD
If in plain clothes you should produce your Warrant Card. If in uniform and the person asks to see your Warrant Card show them.
Y – YOU ARE BEING DETAINED FOR THE PURPOSES OF A SEARCH
Tell the person that due to the grounds that exist that you are detaining them for the purposes of being searched. I always at this point as the person if they have anything sharp or anything that is likely to hurt me. After all especially as this is a drugs incident I do not want to stab myself with a dirty needle!
O – OBJECT OF THE SEARCH
Explain the object of the search, “I have reason to suspect that you may be in possession of illegal drugs so I am searching you for that reason”.
It is always an idea to ask the person if they have any drugs about their person as often they will admit it at this point. If they do then ask them where they are and DO NOT allow them to pass it to you! It could be a diversion and they may produce a weapon etc. Where a person admits possession YOU remove the package. If concealed somewhere intimate take the person to a police station and conduct the search there. Where drugs are admitted still conduct a search as often people will admit to a small amount of Cannabis but not to the Class A that is hidden. By doing this they are hoping to receive a lesser punishment say by getting a street caution rather than arrest.
L – LEGAL POWER (What Search Power Are You Using?)
Tell the person under what power you are searching them.
In this case you are searching for drugs so you would use s.23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
E – ENTITLEMENT OF A COPY OF THE SEARCH RECORD
EVERY stop search MUST be formally recorded via your forces chosen method. Where possible try and obtain the details of the person you are searching but remember that a person has no requirement to provide their details unless an offence has been identified or there are relevant powers to request it. In cases where people refuse to supply their details you must record the remaining details such as the date, time, location of the search and the persons physical description.
Now having a look at this video courtesy of the Metropolitan Police that talks through the conducting of a stop and search. Look and see how GO WISELY is implemented.
Hopefully you will have identified the GO WISELY process.
When conducting a search it is important to follow a process named JOG. This explains what items you may request a person to remove in a public place. Anything outside of JOG is a intimate search and must be conducted at a police station or other suitable private place.
J – Jackets – Any OUTER jacket.
O – Outer Garments – Handbags, Suitcases etc
G – Gloves
In this session we have covered the GO WISELY process, a scenario of where a lawful drugs stop and search would be justified, and what areas you may search in a public place.
Searches should be conducted with respect and those being searched should understand the reasons for it. Should you have any questions around stop and search please ask them via the Ask A Tutor section of the Forum.
Search Depth – A search must be conducted to a level that is relevant to the object you are seeking. For example if conducting a search (as grounds exist) for a large screwdriver then taking someone to custody for a full strip search maybe seen as excessive as it is unlikely that a large screw driver can be concealed intimately etc.
Potentially Violent Searches – Remember your powers under s.117 of PACE and other Use of Force legislation. If you are faced with a threat to injury or life given the circumstances and you can JUSTIFY it consider handcuffing a person. Only YOU can decide if this is relevant and each situation needs to be carefully considered.