Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 15 March, 2002, 11:56 GMT
Should stop and search be used more often?
Police are to present anyone they stop with a written explanation, under new proposed guidelines being announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett on Monday.

The measures are designed to give police confidence to stop members of the public without being accused of racism - but would lead to extra red tape for officers.

Police officers currently record details when they stop and search someone, but these are not passed onto the person searched. And if a person is stopped without being searched, details may not be recorded at all.

Under the new guidelines, police would issue what the Home Office calls a "simple" form, explaining the reasons for the stop.

Stop and search was scaled back when the Macpherson Report into the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence found that police were institutionally racist.

Do you think police should use stop and search measures more often? Would you agree to being searched?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

This could lead to Police having a mental quota of stops on white people, so they can produce figures to support their non-racist claims. I for one have no problem with being stopped, only somebody with a guilty conscience could possibly have anything to fear. If it means that fewer people will carry weapons or drugs then almost any means is worth it. Sadly, as much as people bleat and wave the racist flag the fact remains that young black males in inner city areas have on average less qualms about breaking the law but shout loudest when they are caught. It is almost an automatic reaction to accuse the police of racism.
Jeff Dray, England

Only if you want to live in a Police State.
Paul Carney, UK

The rest of the world has been doing it for centuries

Mike, UK
Stop and search... great idea and totally novel. The rest of the world has been doing it for centuries. But the twist is this ridiculous Labour do-goody stance of a written explanation. How absurd! Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Those that have should be wary. I think we should ask the government to produce an estimate on how much they think this explanation will cost in police time and for them to financially justify it offsetting it against time that could be used more effectively. I bet you'd have some interesting reading.
Mike, UK

Of course the government are right to give police those powers, anyone with anything to hide should be afraid and anyone with nothing to hide - why worry?
Con-Lenihan, Australia

I am a black lawyer who lives in Manhattan. I have never been stopped by the NYPD. Why? I don't live in a bad neighbourhood and I don't look like a hip-hop guy. I have a black friend who dresses in the typical ghetto garb. He has been stopped and is upset about this. I think there are racist cops but they are the exception. Cops take into account race but also other factors: time of day, neighbourhood, and demeanour. This may seem unfair but it's common sense. White young men who look scruffy and are in questionable neighbourhoods get stopped also. Black people in New York are victims of crime more than whites. Most appreciate what cops do. The problem caused by ignorant blacks and the few arrogant cops.
Tom Smith, New York, USA

Anyway, when they [the police] eventually realised, at around 3am in the morning, that they had messed up, did I receive an apology? No of course not

Delson Sugar, England
The issue here is not (or at least should not be) about race; a criminal is a criminal is a criminal regardless of their race.

In the 80's, as a young UK born black man growing up in London, I was often stopped and searched by the police. On one occasion up to three times in a twelve hour period. I often found the police to be hostile and aggressive and the ensuing encounters were usually highly charged and confrontational. When the radio checks came back clear, the look of disappointment on their faces was often visible.

At the age of 14 I walked a school friend, who had been visiting me, to the bus stop. On the way back home, at about 10pm, two officers approached me and they promptly arrested me on suspicion of burglary "I fitted the description". My parents were not informed as required by law.

Anyway, when they [the police] eventually realised, at around 3am in the morning, that they had messed up, did I receive an apology? No of course not. Instead they confiscated my trainers claiming that their forensic scientist had matched the footprints of my trainers to the prints on the roof of some house that I had supposedly been "casing".

We don't have forensic scientists beavering away in the basement of our local nicks at 3am in the morning. I was sent home bare foot for no other reason than to humiliate me. When they eventually posted the trainers back to me I threw them straight in the bin. If we are going to employ stop and search then Individual police officers need to abandon preconceived stereotypes and look at people as individual members of the public. This is a tall order I know but given the powers invested in the police I think this is essential if we are to avoid the civil unrest that we saw back in the 80's which lead to the Scarman report.

How do police in predominantly black countries distinguish between the criminals and the law abiding? Ask yourself that.

Personally speaking I do not see myself as having anything in common with the gun totting idiots currently reeking havoc on our streets and I would like nothing more than to see them removed from society. But please don't lump me in with these fools yet again.
Delson Sugar, England

I do work doing stop and search all day, I think that it is a very intrusive power given to the police and should be used in an intelligence and targeted led manner. The power should not be used to gain points for their annual working reports also more emphasis should be placed on the grounds officers use! Also when they produce their stats they should exclude searches down on 'known criminals' to get the real figures, because one criminal could be responsible for a number of stop and searches they should have a separate league table.
Denise Langlais, England

Jeremy, get real! What else would you expect The Guardian to say! The facts that have been reported widely (liberal ultra left wing journals withstanding) have stated a 50% decrease in stop and search has coincided with a 39% increase in crime. OK, maybe it is a question of putting 2 and 2 together and reaching 5, but common sense should prevail here, we must see if using stop and search tactics more frequently is a measure for reducing crime levels. I have not heard any of the alternatives we could use in this argument.
James, UK

What if I were in hurry?
Helen E, UK

The police can never be everywhere at once and be evenhanded and honest

Alex, England
It's a common complaint of the police that they don't have enough time to catch criminals. Funny then how they seem to find more and more time to catch speeding motorists, isn't it? Actually it's not surprising at all. For about 10 minutes work with a speeding motorist they get 60 done and dusted. If they arrest a real criminal they have to take him to court, appear as a witness, fill out however many forms and then he will probably get a caution or a jail sentence depending on the crime. For a caution the state gets nothing, and to jail someone it actually pays! What would any profit maximising organisation do? The police can never be everywhere at once and be evenhanded and honest. Sadly perhaps, there aren't enough evenhanded and honest people around to have one patrolling every street. If we really want to tackle crime the only way to do this is to have civilians fighting back themselves. Preferably with guns.
Alex, England

What defines a "stop" then? Asking someone their name and address as a witness? A traffic stop? A word of advice to a drunk? Door to door enquiries? Has Blunkett any idea as to how many people a police officer has cause to "stop" and speak to in a single day? I doubt it.
Rich, UK

Giving police powers like stop and search gives the decision makers an incentive to get policemen out on the beat instead of tied up in cars and police stations - any measure to encourage that has to be a good thing.
Beryl, England

If David Blunkett was stopped and searched (let's face it, he looks as dodgy as they come, so it's bound to happen) and was then handed a written reason for being stopped, would Blunkett start to comprehend the stupidity of his latest cunning plan? Probably not.
Chris B., England

I would willingly be stopped and searched every week if that is what it took to reclaim the streets from the scum

Jason, UK
I have been stopped and searched twice in my time. As I had not committed a crime nor was I on my way to commit a crime with a knife in my pocket, all it cost me was fiive minutes. I would willingly be stopped and searched every week if that is what it took to reclaim the streets from the scum.
Jason, UK

I have been stopped and searched by police in UK many times. It's annoying, frustrating, sometimes intimidating and very inconvenient. But I will accept it any day over having potential criminals being unchallenged. I am not a criminal. I have nothing to fear from a police search. Rather police have more power over me than a mugger.
Merlin, Czech

I am fed up with the liberal softies in this country who seem hell-bent on doing everything possible to make it easier to commit a crime. If stop and search helps the police and they are even handed then it seems a great idea. I sometimes feel it is the liberal do-gooders who are the racists by assuming those from ethnic minorities are against these measures. The vast majority of the ethnic minorities in this country are law abiding and want to live a peaceful life. Unfortunately, the likelihood is that most crime takes place in the estates where there is a high concentration of people from ethnic minorities. They have every right to be protected and that is why the silent majority of these groups supports stop and search. Food for thought for the liberal elite in this country.

Interesting how the only anti views on this thread are all foreigners (generally Americans) which country has such a shining example of success in law enforcement and civil rights (not). Clean up you own back yards before you criticise what we are trying to do, what the hell has it got to do with you anyway??
Steve Medcalf, England

Might as well give the criminal a lift home while they're at it

John, England
On the spot forms? Right, so when an offender is running away, officers are searching for them and they are stopping numbers of people who may be involved, they're supposed to fill a form out for each of them. Might as well give the criminal a lift home while they're at it, with all the time they'll waste filling out bits of irrelevant paper people don't want. Nice one Blunkett, another masterstroke.
John, England

I have been a serving Police Officer for a little over two years and one thing I have learnt is that people outside the job have very little understanding of how it actually works. I find it incredible people actually believe the Police simply stop innocent people at random - like we haven't got anything better to do! Yes, a number of innocent people are stopped by the police whilst we are looking for offenders, principally because the descriptions we have to go on usually consist of a single sentence. Think about it in these terms - if your grandmother had just been beaten and robbed and the only description available at the time was male, white, 5'10", slim wearing a blue top and white hat, how impressed would you be if the police simply let the offender walk away because they were afraid stopping the wrong person and "victimising" innocent members of the public. If we knew for certain who was committing offences we wouldn't need any search powers at all as we'd be able to lock them up straight away! As for all this rubbish about logging races of people stopped, it is already done, reasons for searches are kept, people can have the forms (nobody ever does by the way) if they want. Tying the police's hands further makes life even easier for the criminals, and believe me, they will have a far more detrimental effect on your liberty, happiness and general standard of living than being asked a few questions by a bobbie who risks their life everyday protecting yours.
Rich, UK

The Police force may have decreased the overall number of incidents of stop and search, only to increase the number amongst those of ethnic minorities

Jeremy Cedenio, UK
Chris Blighty, your comment that 'a large proportion' of crime is committed by black people is a falsehood at best, and that the use of search and stop methods will lower crime levels is ignorance at its greatest. But since you are so keen to use statistics, perhaps this might open your eyes a little. According to an article in the Guardian on Monday 11th March 2002, the overall use of stop and search methods decreased by 17% and yet the number of black people searched went up by 4%. In London the number of white people searched fell by 14% but yet the number of black people searched went up by 6%. From this I think we can safely arrive at the conclusion that people from ethnic minorities have known and lived with all along. The Police force may have decreased the overall number of incidents of stop and search, only to increase the number amongst those of ethnic minorities. Chris, it is the exact type of attitude and beliefs that you (and others in this forum) have exhibited in your posting that lead to the increasing levels of distrust between the Black British public and the Police force. And it is because of attitudes and beliefs such as yours that led to the Police force in Britain being labelled 'institutionally racist'. The release of the afore mentioned statistics could not have come at a more critical time, for they highlight clearly that stop and search methods do not work. Despite the increase in stops amongst those of ethnic minorities, the level of gun crimes has increased. Those that clamour for the return of stop and search methods, they do not realise the damage that they are doing to race relations for the future. They say ignorance is bliss, but in this case it's just simply dangerous.
Jeremy Cedenio, UK

I think something needs pointing out here unless I have missed the point. Stop/Search powers remain the same as pre MacPherson, it's just that it appears that fewer are carried out because at the end of the day it's less hassle for the Police Officer. As I understand it they will remain the same in the future, in that the grounds, reason for suspicion and object of the search still has to be recorded. What is going to change is that the casual meeting, often for only a minute or two, will require a Police Officer asking personal details of an individual, who otherwise at the moment would be bid farewell. I don't think that this will reduce crime, enhance the relationship between Police and the community, or achieve anything, except lots of unnecessary paperwork! Where is all this new paperwork going to end up? Believe me...this is not want I, as a Police Officer or a member of the public want!
PC Jon Bewley, Derby, UK

Better they look for criminals than waste their time looking for speeding cars doing 5mph over the limit. Get after crime.
Doug Gibson, Scotland

Give a cop an inch and they take a mile.... remember that
Erin, USA

Can any one remember that about six months or a year ago there was a report that showed the proportion of crime that was committed by the various ethnic minorities? Did that not show that a large proportion of crime was committed by black people? Now I have a lot of black friends, who I count as some of my best but still, I think that stop and search should be proportional to those that commit crime. To be fair to some extent this is true, I mean grannies aren't that often found up against the wall. But, IF there is certain group's committing crime, why should the police neglect to search them so as not to hurt their feelings. Do they equally not want to live in a safe environment? I think not. I have a great amount of respect for any community anywhere in the world, but when it comes to certain issues, surely we should not be scared to ensure safety for the public, even if it means possibly offending people if are concerned about racial discrimination.
Chris, Blighty

Zero tolerance should be observed on all crime and the policy of tolerating cannabis use in Lambeth should stop immediately

Carolyn Reilly, England
I live in South London and my teenage daughter has been assaulted and had more than one phone stolen from her. I wholeheartedly endorse the policy of 'stop and search'. Zero tolerance should be observed on all crime and the policy of tolerating cannabis use in Lambeth should stop immediately. Let the police 'fight' back - do not hamper them.
Carolyn Reilly, England

It's a choice, personally I'd rather be stopped and searched by a policeman and allowed to go on my way then be stopped and searched (or worse) by a mugger.
Mogbeast, UK

Prior to these new guidelines anyone who was stopped was to be told that they were entitled to a copy of the search record within one year of the date of stop. So what's changed? Not a lot really, only the number of stops made and the fact the person stopped is given a form laying out the reason for being stopped. Is a five minute stop really a hardship if it could stop someone being burgled, or at worst killed? I don't think so. Especially if it saved my family's life. And no, there won't be any statistics of lives saved or crimes foiled from this as you'd never know how many houses would have been burgled had the stop not have taken place.
Angie, UK

Crime is soaring. Gun and knife attacks are more common day by day. Should we be more worried about offending a few youths because they are not carrying offensive weapons or arresting a person who has a knife and who may kill someone with it? Even if we stop one murder, or one robbery with stop and search it is worth all the possibilities of upsetting some overly "private" folks. We live in an appalling crime ridden society - can we please do something about it before it is too late.
Rob, UK

Where are all these millions of CCTV cameras aimed, the galaxy?

Tom, Australia
I think Britain should just acknowledge that it is a high crime society. Police resources should be used to solve crime, not intimidate and discriminate black people. Where are all these millions of CCTV cameras aimed, the galaxy?
Tom, Australia

The police (and residents) know who the troublemakers are in their area. Clearly, these are the people to search, whatever their race or background. The greater the rate of success, the less people will feel victimized.
S Smith, UK

I can't believe it! After all the recent uproar about the lack of police on our streets, David Blunkett decides to introduce more paperwork!
Matthew, England

Adam, London: The reason the white middle classes don't mind stop & search is because they know that if they are searched they won't be arrested, as opposed to young blacks, who will almost certainly be carrying guns, knives or drugs. By all means search equal numbers of each, but you'll still find the darkies will carry more illegal goods.
Tom Cooper, UK

The argument often follows that, if you have nothing to hide - you have nothing to fear. Surely this same argument applies to the police

Kush, UK
Like many people of Caribbean decent, I too was subjected to repeated 'Stop and Search', only back then it was known as 'the SUS law'. The reason it caused such bad vibes between us and the police was not the fact that we were stopped regularly, but the fact that the conviction rates from all these searches proved only one thing, that we were more likely to be stopped and searched than anyone else - nothing new there. It now appears that Mr 'Reactionary' Blunkett wishes to bring this type of policing back, only this time those against such a move are the policemen themselves, complaining of an increase in red tape. The argument often follows that, if you have nothing to hide - you have nothing to fear. Surely this same argument applies to the police. I cannot see why providing the 'searched' with an explanation/reason for the search should cause them that amount of problems, since they and others loudly state that one of the main causes for the rise in street crime is the lack of searches. As I stated at the beginning, I and many of my friends were stopped and searched back in the day, and we often felt that we were being targeted unfairly. But nobody can deny that of late large numbers of street crimes are being committed by Black people, and we, more than anybody else, would love this low-life to be removed from our streets.
Kush, UK

As a serving police officer I am happy to see the majority of people are not in favour of these ridiculous but not altogether surprising reforms from Blunkett. I stop and search hundreds of people regularly and I would say about 70% end up being arrested. Those who are not are inconvenienced for about a minute tops. Then they are thanked for their help and go on their way. There are obviously going to be arrogant police officers who can't be polite about such things but in the main most are more than pleasant. These reforms will not make a blind bit of difference to how I do my job it will just ensure that I have less time to do it and the public will be inconvenienced longer whilst I fill out a form. For info of anyone who doesn't already know the police and criminal evidence act already provides that a person searched is entitled to apply for a copy of that record one year from the date of the search and their being told is a requirement of that act. So if you are stopped and searched you can have this form if you wish already but I am sure the public would rather just go about their business without waiting for a bobby to fill in a form.
Nick brown, England

This is what policing should be about, stopping the crime before it happens. I have been broken into 3 times and caught them on one occasion chasing them off; prevention is the best method in this society. Why do people carry knives and guns anyway? They can only be looking for trouble, hanging around streets in gangs. These people need to be stopped and searched, excellent idea Blunkett!
Greg Chapman, England

When someone gets arrested, it can take up to 8 hours just to process them and to the paperwork. David Blunkett has just created yet ANOTHER level of paperwork. He can either have officers on the street or inside doing paperwork. He can't have it both ways.
Ruth, London

I am a serving police officer and see this as just another of Blunkett's plans to load more misery onto the police

Maurice Varney, UK
I am a serving police officer and see this as just another of Blunkett's plans to load more misery onto the police. If I feel the need to stop somebody to speak to or search, I do it with the powers of Stop and Search already granted under PACE Act 1984. If the person wishes it, they are fully entitled to, and will be given a copy of a P1 search form but, having served for 8 years, I have never once been asked for a copy of the form. Instead, it is kept at the police station as required by PACE for 365 days for the 'victim' of my search to collect as and when they like. Why is Blunkett trying to make a name for himself by repeatedly targeting the police? Was he arrested as a student for being drunk or is it simply that he has no concept of the actual nuts and bolts of modern day policing?
Maurice Varney, UK

I am a serving officer and since Judges' rules were surplanted by PACE, to deal with a simple shoplifter, an offence the arrested person normally admits to, PACE has required the filling out of an additional 17 (at last count) forms, more if DNA swabs are submitted. Nearly all these forms are admin forms for CPS. Mr Blunkett need to address the CPS's love of admin forms, which a cynic might feel would be reigned in if CPS had to pay for admin staff to fill out the forms as opposed to passing it off onto the police, before saddling us with extra paperwork.
Paul Mitchell, England

It is extraordinary that British people are so willing to submit to invasions of privacy. I'm sorry, but I don't want to be stopped and searched by anybody, including police. This kind of activity should not be part of normal life in any civilised society.
Alan Mehew, Thailand (UK expat)

I'm all for it, as long as MPs are subjected to the same random "stop and searches" within the house of commons, in order to check their back pockets for envelopes stuffed full of bribe money.
Neil Pearce, London, England

Do yourselves a favour, and don't let this happen. They did this in California (Bay Area) under the guise of checking for "Proof of Insurance". Which gave them rein to check every third person at check points. And hey, if they just happen to notice something ELSE, well hey, too bad for you bud... I was on a bicycle in those days, so I saw a lot of it, but was never involved.
Gretchen, USA

When will people stop playing the race card instead of looking for the real source of crime, and let the police do their job?

Audrey, USA
Profiling can be a very useful tool in modern policing, and race is a factor but it is only *one* factor out of many. In a study recently completed in my hometown, it was reported that blacks were stopped in a particular neighbourhood as much as whites, but blacks were more likely to be searched. (Still, a relatively small percentage or either race were searched.) If the decision to search had been purely racial, and unjustified, then we would expect the percentage of weapons found to be *less* among blacks searched than among whites searched. However, the opposite was true, and dramatically so; certainly, the officers saw something in those they chose to search *other* than skin colour. When will people stop playing the race card instead of looking for the real source of crime, and let the police do their job?
Audrey, USA

This is ridiculous, there has been a noticeable increase in crime since the Steven Lawrence case, that should be enough alone to allow officers to return to stop and search without fear of being branded racist. I am dismayed that the crime rates are up 39% in one year! What will it take before we take action? Will we leave it so long that we have to adopt NY's draconian style policing? I might suggest to those who get searched on a regular basis, that they smarten up their act, since I find it highly unlikely they get searched without looking suspicious.
Nick, UK

What a ridiculous notion that cops can stop you and search you without a warrant and probable cause. The only place where the police/security should be granted more power is airports and other similar situations. The police will just make stuff up if they have to fill out paper work to stop someone.
Dan German, Texas, USA

Stop and search powers are fine, so long as the police aren't simply out looking for an easy arrest to boost their figures. I've been stopped a couple of times in Lancashire, for no reason, and been questioned at the road/street side, only to find that I was minding my own business! On the contrary, now living in Greater Manchester, the police appear to spend their time actually fighting crimes - and policing the streets where they need it. As for the paper work - is it really necessary? I'm not sure it is...if they must have it, can't they employ secretaries to fill out these forms rather than wasting Police time?
Dan, UK

Do you actually wANT crime to come down in inner cities? Then stop tying the police's hands behind their backs by accusing them all of being racists

William, West Bromwich, West Midlands, UK
The reason why white people don't object to these new measures is simple. They are not statistically likely to become a perpetrator in the first place. It's just how it is. How else can the police stop and search a suspect unless they have a vague idea of who they are looking for? There's NO other way of doing it, and if you're stopped 10 times in a day well that's just the law. Trying to protect the people it services; do you actually WANT crime to come down in inner cities? Then stop tying the police's hands behind their backs by accusing them ALL of being racists. The majority of them have got much better things to be concerned with. They can stop and search me as many times as they wish. I have nothing to hide and if I have then I've done something I shouldn't. For God's sake what more do you want? The police are taking even MORE TIME to give you a print-out of the reasons why they've stopped you, and a copy of these records is stored on a national database of who is committing the most crime and where? Or is this really what you're afraid of? This is ridiculous in this day and age. Can we please get on with flushing out the scum of society regardless of whether they be white, black or Martian?
William, West Bromwich, West Midlands, UK.

I am a Police Officer that works in a provincial county with a low ethnic population but I'm sick to death of malicious complaints which have placed fear in the Police just doing their jobs.

For example take stop/searches nearly every time I've dealt with a black male I've had a complaint. I've always ensured I have had good grounds for the stop/searching and have dealt with each incident fairly and impartially but this hasn't stopped the complaints (which contrary to public belief are investigated so thoroughly that you are treated and feel like an offender). Luckily I've always had witnesses to these incidents which has led to the me having an unblemished record but has resulted in what the Police Professional Standards call an' informal resolution' which means they cannot prove an 'offence' against you. You have no choice but to accept this judgement and they say it's not kept on your personal records. (But it is kept somewhere because senior officers have been known to bring it up at later hearings) These unfounded allegations inhibited and frustrate our ability to police properly and finally cause impotence to the police. Suspects accordingly walk around without fear they have little to lose however as a Police Officer (without a witness) you might lose your job!

Simon, UK

Whilst I sympathise with those who feel that they are sometimes victimised by "stop and search", and feel that I must admit that it would irritate me, I also insist that it is a very small price for law abiding people to pay to feel safer walking the streets. To those who say that the police victimise ethnic minorities, I would say this. I strongly suspect that the police stop and search more men than women, and more youths than elderly, but we do not hear sections of the community crying foul on sexism and ageism!!! Secondly, (and I was discussing this with a black friend today) it is a very sad fact of life that blacks make up 35% of the British jail population whilst only 6%, or thereabouts, of the population as a whole. They laud ghetto gangster culture and dress in that manner, they have a very high incidence of gun crime and young black men are far more prone to disregard school work. All facts, sad, but facts! It is therefore only sensible that police search more young black men than older white, or Asian, women.

The black community is now crying out for more patrols to combat this gang culture, and black women are up in arms about the disrespectful behaviour of their men folk, and of their lack of interest in self-education, which inevitably leads to unemployment or crime.
Ben, UK

The police should be able to stop anyone they suspect without having to write out a reason; this is the most stupid thing I've heard the police having to do. Get with it, politicians, the streets are already violent and if an officer is deterred to 'stop and search' because of pointless paper work then the streets could get worse. One last point, the punishment is very weak and anyone found with weapon like a gun should see more of prison food than they do.
Aaron, UK

Often the operational police officer acts on instinct and may find it difficult to articulate concrete reasons for suspicion

Tony Giles, Hong Kong, China
I write as a retired Chief Inspector of police. Yes, there is a problem with stop-and-search procedures that must be addressed. Stop-and-search should only be done when there are reasonable grounds for suspicion. Often, however, the operational police officer acts on instinct and may find it difficult to articulate concrete reasons for suspicion. Inevitably a proportion of those stopped, questioned and searched are innocent of any wrongdoing and feel insulted by having been treated as a suspected criminal. The police officer who carries out the procedure and finds nothing to corroborate his suspicion may also feel frustrated and harbour a lurking sense that the subject of his enquiry has "got away with something". Mutual mistrust is thus engendered. The only truly effective way for the problem to be resolved is for police officers to learn to properly articulate their reasons for carrying out a stop-and-search, in a way that will be acceptable to a reasonable person. Whether or not he is able to do so, filling in a form is simply a waste of time. Blunkett's proposal is ludicrous and does not represent a solution of any kind. It is merely another bit of superfluous bull for the working copper to deal with.
Tony Giles, Hong Kong, China

Another Home Office edict that so misses the point; fails to understand police and community interaction: instead feeds the Civil Service and political desire to number crunch and justify inaccurate and bureaucratic 'performance' targets that are meaningless to the community who so desperately want a reduction in criminality.
David Flanighan, UK

In apartheid South Africa any black that looked dodgy was apprehended and interrogated. If he had nothing to hide he was set free. If he had a knife or drugs he/she was severely punished. The same should apply here. In this country if a black is convicted of a crime - no-photo only of the victims. If a white male is so much as suspected let alone charged we get pictures. BBC and media cohorts whose side are you really on?
Annie Tobin, Ireland/England

The current policing strategy seems to me to be about crime detection rather than prevention. We need Police on the beat carrying out random searches; it is no good having the Police called out to "clean up" after murder, robbery and violence. Such crimes need to be prevented. Blunkett wants Police officers carrying Palm top computers to record incidents, I assume he has never used one (or can't), they are slower to enter text than paper and pencil.
Giles Jones, UK

Last time I was over there - only a year ago - I was horrified by the amount of cameras on the streets. Now to top it off, you guys are making the same mistakes we make here with stop and search. The police SHOULD have to report their actions and he reason they stop you every time. Make them subject to oversight. England's going Orwellian enough. (Worse, we're starting to follow suit.)
Scott, USA

Give policemen handheld recorders to enable them to verbalise their reports

Mrs. P Armstrong, U.K.
Give policemen handheld recorders to enable them to verbalise their reports, which can be processed later by an office worker. So enabling the police to get on with their work. This practice is currently used by consultants in hospital outpatient clinics and is successful.
Mrs. P Armstrong, U.K.

I think that this proposal is a wonderful idea, except that it doesn't go far enough. I think that there should be compulsory 'search checkpoints' established at all main rights of way, and that everyone passing these points should be required to provide a written justification for their activities at the time. By searching everybody there's no fear of discrimination, and (by the same principles as applied to Mr Blunkett's proposed scenario) no one would ever be anywhere without a good, honest and clearly explained reason, completely eliminating the problem of crime. Perhaps I've pre-empted Mr Blunkett's next proposal?
James, UK

I am a serving police officer at Southampton Central police Station. In my own experiences, those people that oppose to being stop-checked are very often the people that have committed the offence for which you are investigating. To suggest police stop and check for the very sake of it is almost laughable. It would be a wonderful day when there was really "nothing else to do". Police officers do not stop and check randomly, for there is not enough time in the day to deal with offenders, let alone waste time dealing with people who are decent members of society by means of stopping them. This new brainchild of Mr Blunkett is yet another example of someone telling us how to police, when never having had any experience to support this initiative. This is another disappointment on the road to letting us leave the police station to prevent and detect crime. Mr Blunkett, you have my full support that I won't be stop-checking people, as we all know this is your ultimate goal.
Christian, UK

As a frontline police officer, I can tell you that I and most of my colleagues would try not to stop a member of an ethnic minority, as it is just too much hassle. Only stops that are strictly necessary are carried out (although not necessarily the same with white people) - the procedures reported today have more to do with maintaining Mr Blunkett's image than practical crime prevention. Drowning under mountains of paper is all I have to look forward to at work nowadays!
Simon, UK

Instead of the stop and search, why not introduce more sniffer dogs onto the street, surely they could tell if anyone is carrying drugs or guns and there would then be a justified reason to stop and search, also I bet the crime wave would go down as well
Michael, England

As a serving police officer I believe this will have a negative effect

Mick Gordon, UK
As a serving police officer I believe this will have a negative effect and the number of searches will go down. The Home Office already has police officers filling out forms by the dozen for their statistics. Another one on top of the Form 5090 I do already for every search is a "Form Too Far". Colour of the person stopped is irrelevant - if I am suspicious and have grounds to search - I will search. I'd like to thank the Home Office for making my job that extra bit clerical once again. Maybe they would prefer I form filled all day to satisfy their lust for statistics instead of fighting crime and trying to make the streets safer for ordinary citizens. The Home Office and the Secretary of State have lost touch with the police and its needs. The decision defies logic, when the current form is perfectly adequate for statistical use and a copy is given to the person searched (if requested)
Mick Gordon, UK

It's all well and good the on the pulse lobby saying that it's okay to stop and search. But I have no doubt that policemen will go back to stopping any black man they see. My brothers are very outstanding individuals, have NEVER been involved in any crime, don't even drive flash cars yet they have been stopped and searched REGULARLY. Their only crime, being black. If I had assurances from the police that they were going to target their activities towards the gangs of hooligans roaming the streets and nicking mobile phones, I would absolutely agree with stop and search. But I know that for the average policeman, a black man is synonymous with a criminal. I cannot support return to the old regime, which is demoralising for black men.
Barbara, UK

If anyone has tried to deal with a person who doesn't wish to assist the police they will know how ridiculous it is to expect police to write down their reasons for stopping the person at the time. I'm not against giving reasons, most officers will do so either before they question or immediately after, depending on the circumstances. And then there is the rain... Surely by issuing all operational police officers with a mini tape recorder which they can switch on when stopping and interrogating or searching, which can be later transcribed if necessary would overcome the problem of writing under difficult circumstances
Vic Botterill, England

Some guy was complaining on Radio 4 this morning that S&S was "massively inefficient" because "80% of the people stopped haven't even done anything wrong" So, 20% of those stopped turn out to be criminals. That sounds like a pretty good average to me, let's have some more, lots more and get a few more of these criminals off the streets.
Steve Harrison, UK

Paul, I would rather live in a police state than a criminal one. In all seriousness though, we are only returning to common sense procedures that were in place before the McPherson report and I never heard the term "Police State" applied to Britain back then. These are positive measures Blunkett has taken, only the loony, liberal left would say otherwise. If you want a Britain riddled with no go areas and a rising gun crime then I can see your point of view.
Jim, England

In reply to Adam's comments about how the police should stop a higher proportion of white people, this is anti-white racism. It's already been proven that blacks as a whole are responsible for most mobile phone thefts so the police are naturally going to target those people. Of course the ultra-politiically correct BBC would never allow such home truths to be spoken even though most people secretly think the same. The police have no hidden racial agenda; most of them just want to get on with protecting the public without all this politically correct intervention. They are doing a great job in the circumstances and Blunkett's latest red tape exercise requiring another dose of form filling must be scrapped in favour of common sense.
Steve, England

I think the current stop and search procedure is absolutely fine

Denzel, London, UK
I think the current stop and search procedure is absolutely fine. I've been stopped several times in the last year, and have never had a problem. What does make me laugh though is the number of people on my estate who complain of police harassment and racism because they're young black men and are being searched. In the area where I live, 95% of the male population is young and black! It is also a high-crime area, and the police are doing their best to stop this happening so that the 'good' black people in the area don't have to fear rape, mugging, burglary, assault, drug pushers, prostitutes, etc.
Denzel, London, UK

I don't think stop and search policy is a bad idea in theory. The problem is that the police will target the ethnic groups with the oldest line "you fit the description of the suspect". How you do argue that?
Chucks, UK

Blunkett has now lost the plot he seems to be trying to destroy the Police service, where the morale is at an all time low. When Police Officers stop someone on the street they give that person the grounds and reason for that stop plus other information one of which is that a record of the search will be made and that they are entitled to a copy if they wish. 99% of the time a copy is not requested and the person is happy for the verbal explanation given. To have to write out a stop slip at the side of the street would only keep the detained person there even longer and more than likely annoy them more than they already may be. The MacPherson report stated that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist yet when Police Officers complained that they were being branded as racists MacPherson stated that they were not saying that individual Officers were racist but the service itself. So if it not the officers and the service how possibly can a building or car be called a racist if the people that make up the service are not? When will this madness stop?
Richard, England

I am appalled that police in the UK, a country I normally consider civilized, are free to search citizens without probable cause or a legal warrant. It must be the influence of the Eurocrats in Brussels.
James Castro, USA

Making officers fill out another piece of paper means they waste their time doing it

Ian, England
This is not about stop and search, it is about stop. Powers of search are tightly regulated and cannot be amended by the home secretary to suit the current political situation. Making officers fill out another piece of paper means they waste their time doing it. The police will then have to pay someone to quality check and count the bits of paper and enter them on a database so that David Blunkett can see that the police are talking to the public. What a farce. Who does it help? No one. Will it stop the small minority of officers abusing their powers? NO. Will it cut crime? No. Rather than stop and talk to, not interrogate, the public the police may think it isn't worth the paperwork. Will they do a form for everyone that asks them the time? Glad to see the Govt are keen to cut down paperwork for the bobby on the beat!
Ian, England

I agree with Debbie (tough luck Paul). I am not against being stopped and searched by the police, just as long as there is a real reason for doing so. Crime has soared so much in the capital in the past few years, all because there are not enough policemen on the streets. The police force face the threat of legal action on the grounds of being "racist" if they stop coloured people on the streets - all this political correctness is pathetic. If a person (regardless of colour) has done wrong, or is suspected of having done wrong, then they should be treated by the law accordingly. Come on coppers, don't be afraid to start getting tough, and deal with those people roaming freely on the streets who should be locked up behind bars.
Kate, UK

I feel we have become too liberal in this country. We should have zero tolerance like America and harsher sentences. If you commit a crime you should expect to pay the price.
Joan Guerin, UK

The Home Secretary is NOT giving police new powers. The power to stop and search is contained within the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and if an officer has 'reasonable grounds' to suspect an individual is in possession of certain things then a power to search can be used. A written record is already maintained that is available to the person for up to 12 months after they were stopped and searched. This idea is not an extension of police powers but an extension of bureacracy to enable the home office to have more figures to massage to make themselves look as though they are making some effort to make the force more efficient. Police officers are not obliged to have to stop and search someone so the most effective method is to not use this power and see where that leaves the Government!
Denis, UK

As long as the police give a legitimate reason for stopping someone and are polite then I think its a good thing. Me and my mates have been stopped twice. The first time the police were very polite and professional, the second time they were arrogant, rude and made us very angry. My younger brother is 16 and from what he tells me its frightening the amount of kids that carry knives and weapons on the streets. Stop and search is a good thing and if you've got nothing to hide then why should you object to being stopped. But the police should also make it fair so that more white people are stopped not every black person.
Adam, UK

Ludicrous - the 'if you've got nothing to hide' brigade are out in force. You may not have anything to hide but if you are stopped by the police 8 times in 10 days (as my friend was in the 1980s) then you can perhaps see why some people object to the stereotyping and profiling which ultimately comes with such power. The reason white, middle class England wouldn't object to stop and search is because the likelihood of them being stopped is virtually nil, and that if they are, it will be a one off and not a daily occurrence. There is still real mistrust between the police and ethnic communities, and this will simply provide an excuse for rogue elements to harass innocent citizens.
Adam, London

I am a retired Canadian police officer and have made many "stop and search" incidents in my 30-year career. As the Canadian judicial system was based on the British system, not the American type, we think have the best in the world. I doubt very much if Mr. Blunkett has ever worked a night shift patrolling a particular area of a community that is known for a high crime rate whether it be violence, drugs or property crimes etc. If a police officer is not stopping and talking to persons who fit a certain profile he is not performing his sworn duty to "Serve and Protect". Giving the stopped person a written reason is ridiculous and time consuming. If a certain element of society were wandering Mr. Blunkett's neighbourhood would he not wish the police to ascertain what they were up too? Get a look at the real life out there Mr. Blunkett and let the police do their job.
B. Hunt, Canada

This has all the hallmarks of a procedure dreamt up by bureaucrats with not a thought for the practical implications

Peter Sykes, UK
This has all the hallmarks of a procedure dreamt up by bureaucrats with not a thought for the practical implications. No reasonable person can object to stop and search, when carried out with tact and courtesy. No one, other than the criminal fraternity and Home Office bureaucrats, will welcome yet more paperwork.
Peter Sykes, UK

This is a complete waste of everybody's time. It will take longer to write out the paper than to put someone down. Honest cops will spend even more time on legal verbiage (the current mouthful when they caution someone is a good example; how many suspects really understand it?) and bad cops will continue to invent spurious reasons to hassle people; they'll just have to write them down.
Nick Brown, France

Do not bog down the police with more red tape. With crime levels as they are they should have the power to stop and search anyone at any time. It's madness to invent even more paper work to appease the loony liberals, and will deter the police from conducting a search - who wants reams of paper to fill in at the end of a long shift? I have welcomed strict searches at the airports, it makes me feel much safer in my travels. I would also welcome street searches, and never be annoyed at being stopped and searched myself. I am sure it would be a very good deterrent and make the public feel safer than they do now.
Baz, England

I believe that the police have enough stop and search powers already. However, if they feel that more powers are necessary, then I think that they should be allowed to stop and search suspicious characters whenever they feel the need. It is a good idea to make them justify their actions though, and make the report available to the suspect. The problem with all this "red tape" though, is that it distracts the police from doing what they are supposed to be doing i.e. catching criminals. We already have a shortage of policemen in the UK, so tying them up with paperwork will further restrict their ability to spend more time on the streets where most criminal activity occurs. Creating additional paperwork for the police is not the way to improve the system for the benefit of the victims of crimes. What is really needed is more money and more policemen.
Phil T, Oman

We want police on the streets, not sat at desks with pens in hand

Derek Thornton, England
Blunkett has really lost the plot. Written explanations indeed! The people who pay the bill (excuse the pun) want police on the streets, not sat at desks with pens in hand.
Derek Thornton, England

I think the vast majority of the people in this country support the police and are strongly in favour of some action to counteract the terrible situation regarding levels of crime. Police morale is very low and the last thing they need is yet more paperwork. They need to be allowed to get on and catch criminals, and to prevent crimes happening in the first place. This won't happen if they are all stuck in police stations filling forms in to prevent themselves being sued by thugs who object to being searched as a violation of their human rights. I wholeheartedly support the recent assertions that the whole system is biased in favour of the criminals. The law-abiding, or silent, majority is sick of the chaos caused by persistent criminals, and the police should be allowed to deal with it. Law abiding people have nothing to fear and the cause of the victims of crime deserves a much stronger voice.
Jon, UK

Yet another example of an ill thought out response from another politician who is only concerned with arrow-deflection rather than solving the problem

Paul, England
Once again we hear from the "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" brigade. Debbie - It is not a question of having something to hide; its that we do not live in a police state (yet!). However, in practice the police can stop and search whomever they wish. The only reason they need give is that they had "reasonable grounds for suspicion".

Blunkett is completely wrong, but for purely practical reasons. Requiring the police to provide a written reason for stopping someone is all very well in theory, but in reality it would soon become meaningless as the reason will be "This person matched the description we were given of a potential offender" - and how can anyone say that it isn't so. For this reason alone it is an idiotic idea, and yet another example of an ill thought out response from another politician who is only concerned with arrow-deflection rather than solving the problem.
Paul, England

If you have nothing to hide, what is the problem with being stopped and searched? Surely people would be pleased if this reduces the amount of crime on the streets, I know I wouldn't object.
Debbie, UK

If I am going to be searched I would like to know why. I would never contemplate carrying a weapon and would really like to know what I have done to break the trust that has now caused me to come under suspicion.
Chris, UK

David Blunkett's endorsement will have no bearing on whether I stop and search someone today

Tony Smith, UK
I am a serving police officer based at Brixton division. Whether or not the Home Secretary has given his endorsement to police stop and search is quite irrelevant, bearing in mind such procedures are endorsed by law. His endorsement will have no bearing on whether I stop and search someone in Brixton today. Once again we see a knee jerk reaction to a problem that requires more than micro management from the Home Office. How does the Home Secretary balance the need to reduce police red tape in order to get us back out on the streets against this new beaurocracy of filling in a form each time we stop a person? I do not need his endorsement and I do not need yet more paperwork.
Tony Smith, UK

It's not just the colour of your skin, your mode of transport can also effect how more likely you are to be stopped. I'm a motorcyclist as well as a car driver and was stopped three times last year on the bike, yet in over 20 years of driving a car I have only been stopped once. I think a requirement for the police officer to provide a written reason for stopping you is a good idea, as it could cut down on harassment stops purely designed to discourage a group of people visiting a particular area.
Russell Aisbitt, UK

I think it should be made clear that when people are stopped and searched by police they are entitled to a copy of the search record within 12 months. This record would have the reason for the search, so why create more red tape?
Steven Snowdon, UK

See also:

01 Mar 02 | England
London's 'lawless gun culture'
24 Feb 99 | Stephen Lawrence
Report hailed as 'step forward'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories