It has long been recognised that discretion is vital to good police work. However, in Britain (and many other countries), practices of discretion in the stop and search context have come under much scrutiny as it has widely been linked to racist practices, i.e. a disproportionate amount of Black and minority ethnic individuals are stopped and searched compared to White people. In a bid to counteract the discretionary practices that are seen to be linked to racist stops and searches, police officers are required (in stops and searches under section 1 of the PACE code A) to have ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’. This article evaluates what has been claimed as the tension between the required reasonable grounds for suspicion and the need to draw on generalisations (police discretion) for effective policing.
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