Stop and search’ (S&S) is a worldwide practice carried out by the police which enables police officers to stop a person, prevent him or her from pursuing his or her passage (Bowling & Philips, 2007; Bowling & Weber, 2011) and if necessary, proceed with a search. Two types of S&S approaches can be distinguished: the reactive approach, where the police decide to stop someone as a response to suspicious behaviour or circumstances in order to find proof of criminal activity, and the proactive approach, where the goal is to deter future offences and maintain public order (Murray, 2014). The latter fits well within the current “culture of control” which aims at spotting risky individuals as soon as possible (van der Leun & van der Woude, 2011). In various European countries S&S has been a source of considerable debate. It us argued that S&S principally targets certain population groups and more specifically ethnic minority groups (ethnic profiling) and youngsters (Delsol & Shiner, 2006; Sollund, 2006). Consequently, S&S is a rather controversial practice, which can cause a negative effect on the public and can affect the legitimacy of the police (Bowling & Phillips, 2007; van der Leun et al., 2014; Quinton, 2013). Despite the heavy debates that exist around S&S in Europe, so far no cross-country scientific research has been carried out on the practice. Therefore, the main aim of the Action is to exchange and deepen our knowledge and understanding of police stops in Europe.
Police across the world have the power to stop citizens, to check their identity and, if they have reason, to conduct a search. These powers differ from one country to the next. They are more controversial and subject to greater scrutiny in some places than in others. And we know more about the outcomes and effects of the use of powers in some countries and almost nothing about the practice in others. To better understand the practice, we have established a European network, funded through EU COST, which brings together the different and contrasting perspectives of those who conduct stops, those who experience them and, finally, those who are involved in oversight and accountability.
OUR ACTIVITIES explore both particular and broader aspects on the practice of police stops, including:
Practicing Police Stops is concerned to understand what powers the police have and how they use them. This will include the analysis of what data is available, but we are also interested in how officers are trained and what they say about the use of the powers. WG1
Experiencing Police Stops will seek to gather what is known about the experience of being stopped by the police. We will gather what is known about who is stopped (young men, visible minorities, homeless persons etc.) and what evidence there is, from research, from legal cases and elsewhere, of their experience of being stopped. WG2
Governing Police Stops will then establish the ways in which the use of powers are subject to challenge and to oversight, whether by complaints systems, the courts or independent inspectors. We will also be interested in civil society organisations that might represent individuals and communities. WG3
Contextualising Police Stops is concerned to understand the historical, legal, political and social aspects of police stops. Why does the power emerge and gain prominence at particular points in time? What is the role of politics in legitimising the use of the power in response to, for example, concerns about terrorism, knife crime or migration. WG4
Comparing Police Stops has a coordinating brief to support the work of the other four groups and to avoid duplication of effort. WG5
A website that will present the evidence we gather in the form of interactive maps and supporting materials.
Resources for practitioners, whether in the police or in scrutiny bodies, to help improve practices and understandings of the powers.
Publications in academic and professional journals.