What is a stop and search?
Stop and Search is an important power for the police to help reduce crime. When used properly, it can enable the police to detect and tackle crimes that may have occurred and to prevent offending. Stop and Search can increase public confidence in policing but, because of its nature, can also interfere with people’s freedom. Equality and human rights must therefore be taken into consideration when using this power, which must also be used in accordance with the law.
The police have a right and a duty to stop and talk to members of the public and in certain circumstances to search them. This is done to protect our communities, tackle crime and keep our streets safe.
A 'stop and search' is when a police officer (not a Police community support officer) stops you and them searches you, because he or she has the reason to suspect you are in possession of:
- Drugs, weapons or stolen property; or
- Items which could be used to commit a crime.
If you would like to find out more about your rights when it comes to being stopped and searched by a police officer, read our Know your Rights leaflet.
When can stop and searches be used?
We are conscious of our responsibility to ensure stop and searches are appropriate and proportionate.
Officers must have reasonable grounds to use the powers; must use them without any bias against or in favour of any person or group; must do no more than is necessary to achieve a lawful aim; and must follow the correct and proper processes.
More information on police's Authorised Professional Practice in relation to stop and search is available here.
What if I'm unhappy with a stop and search encounter?
It is important to tell us if you are unhappy with a stop and search encounter you have experienced in the South Wales Police force area.
If you would like to make a complaint, or for more information on how to do so, click here.
Scrutiny of stop and search
Members of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s team conduct dip sampling exercises which involve reviewing stop and search forms completed by police officers, as well as reviewing body worn videos. To find out more about our quality assurance work, click here.
Stop and search is also scrutinised through the force's Confidence and Legitimacy Group and through the Police and Crime Commissioner-led Police Accountability and Legitimacy Group.
In addition, each South Wales Police Basic Command Unit has a Community Cohesion Group, which consists of members of local communities who study the use of stop and search locally.
Disproportionality of stop and search
Across the UK, black and minority ethnic people are statistically more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
It is therefore crucial to ensure that stop and search is continuously monitored to ensure that the power is used in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.
That process will be more robust when the public has the opportunity to scrutinise the use of stop and search.
In 2018/19, a total of 10,555 stop searches were carried out. While the vast majority of these – more than 17 out of every 20 – were carried out on white people, we are aware of the vital importance of ensuring we do not discriminate against any individuals or any groups, and so that we can respond to any concerns raised by minority groups or others.
However, we are never complacent about ensuring the legitimacy of what we do, and to that end, South Wales Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner are commissioning academic research into disproportionality.
Review of stop and search disproportionality
An August 2019 review examined 156 stop and searches with BAME subjects to ensure that all stop and searches are undertaken in a fair, ethical and proportionate manner.
The review examined wards with the highest disproportionality, the highest BAME population, the highest volume of BAME searches and the officers who conducted the most stop and searches on BAME subjects.
Some repeat stop and searches are a result of our efforts to tackle so-called County Lines, but our review in August 2019 showed no evidence of repeat stop and searches being disproportionate or unjustified.
The method by which the rate of disproportionality is calculated can sometimes be misleading, with stop-search figures being related to the location they take place, not where the subject is from. For example, a stop-search carried out on a BAME person in an area with a small BAME population will be counted towards the figures, making them appear more disproportionate.
Likewise, the movement of people around South Wales, as well as into South Wales from elsewhere, also has an impact on the disproportionality rate. County Lines activity, similarly, may mean people from outside South Wales are moving to, or being apprehended in, South Wales.
Meanwhile, police teams with the highest number of BAME searches often work in wards with significant drugs-related issues. While there is no evidence that individual officers are being disproportionately biased towards any ethnic group, the collective response to the drugs issue – and an increase in the number of stop-searches for this purpose – may therefore result in some disproportionality.
While our reviews have not uncovered discriminatory practice, we are keen to obtain as many different perspectives as possible. The academic research into disproportionality being commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner and South Wales Police will provide further context for this work, and provide a broader understanding of the issue and how we should approach it.
What is a Section 60 authorisation?
If one of our officers of the rank of Inspector or above believes that there has been serious violence in an area, or that there may be serious violence, then section 60 can be authorised. This gives police officers the power to stop and search people for weapons, without needing reasonable grounds as mentioned above.
The authorisation is under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which is why you may hear it referred to as a Section 60 or S60.
An Inspector who gives an authorisation must, as soon as practicable, inform an officer of or above the rank of Superintendent.
What will the police do while there is a Section 60 authorisation?
If a Section 60 is granted, we will:
- Make sure it is used only where necessary and make sure we make this to clear to you
- Ensure the officer authorising the section 60 has evidence that serious violence has taken place or may take place
- Make a written record of the authorisation
- Document details of each stop-search conducted
- Limit the duration of initial authorisations to no more than 24 hours, which can then be extended for a further 24 hours
- Where possible, tell the community that there will be a section 60 authorisation in advance of the operation
- Report on the operation afterwards so the public can be aware of the purpose and the success of it
Stop and Search Data
Below is a breakdown of our where and why stop-searches are carried out, as well as a summary of the results for 2020-21.
We think it's important to be open in showing our proactivity and how it is helping us tackle issues including illegal substances, serious violence and knife crime, as well as transparent about our use of the stop-search tactic.
Stop and Search Patrol Along Scheme
South Wales Police operates a Patrol Along scheme that supports the Best Use of Stop and Search by providing opportunities for the community to accompany police officers on patrol for a single shift. For more details, click here.
What happens during a stop and search?
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