New stop and search training and guidance for police

Published: 26 Oct 2016

Police officers across England and Wales will receive new training and guidance on the use of stop and search.

The training and guidance will give officers confidence to use their powers legally, fairly, professionally and transparently and help them recognise the potential for unconscious bias.

For the first time in British policing, standards for training and police practice on stop and search will be set nationally. The evidence-based standards will focus on the law, how to decide when to stop and search, and how officers handle encounters as part of their continuing professional development.

The training and guidance will help officers to recognise and challenge unconscious bias in stop and search. Unconscious bias affects everybody’s decision-making. It happens when we make quick decisions in ambiguous situations that, without us realising, disadvantage particular groups of people. Our biases are influenced by our background, culture and personal experiences.

The training and guidance will support officers to demonstrate clear, objective and reasonable grounds before conducting a search. They also help officers to account for their decisions clearly, and treat members of the public fairly and respectfully.

The national training requires constables and sergeants to complete a short online training module and test, and take part in a two-day practical classroom session. Sergeants are required to take part in a further one-day course on supervising and monitoring stop and search carried out by their officers.

The College of Policing – the professional body for the police – was commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2014 to develop the new national training and guidance. To ensure the national standards are evidence-based, the College carried out the first ever randomised controlled trial on stop and search training, involving more than 1,300 officers from six police forces.

The trial found that officers who were trained were less likely to support using racial or ethnic stereotypes. They also had greater knowledge of the law, were more likely to say they would act in line with the standards, but were no less likely to say would intervene in situations. 83 per cent of trained officers rated the pilot training as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

Police forces across England and Wales now have access to the new national training, and new national guidance (Authorised Professional Practice) is now publically available.

College of Policing Stop and Search lead, Garth Stinson, said:

"Stop and search can be an important tactic used by police to help to protect the public.

"This is the first time since stop and search powers were introduced in 1984 that officers have been set national standards to support them and ensure it is used consistently.

"We know that stop and search can be intrusive so our evidence-based approach means officers will be given training and support to use their powers fairly, legally, professionally and in a transparent way.  We want officers to feel confident in their use of stop and search to use it more effectively in tackling crime and increase trust in its use.

"The power was introduced into policing as a way for officers to stop and search someone suspected of carrying illegal drugs, weapons, stolen property or something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar."

The training was widely consulted on and took into account feedback from the public, police, government and civil liberty groups.

Chief Executive at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said:

“Stop and search must be lawful, non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory and based on reasonable suspicion. This is why we commissioned the College of Policing to develop a comprehensive stop and search training programme to help ensure officers meet these obligations.

“We worked closely with the College to develop and design the training to help police officers understand the importance of applying the rules fairly when stopping members of the public. Doing so is vital in building and maintaining trust between the police and the communities they serve, and increasing public confidence in the police.”

Notes to editors

The training and guidance is designed to help officers ensure that stop and search encounters across England and Wales are:

  • Legal: officers have a practical understanding and knowledge of how the laws around stop and search work and can describe how a lawful encounter should be conducted.
  • Fair: raising awareness of bias and providing practical ways to challenge and remove it from decision-making so officers can demonstrate objective and reasonable suspicions before carrying out a search.
  • Professional: officers should act in a consistent and open manner throughout the stop and search encounter and explain their actions and decisions to the individuals involved. The public and communities will therefore have more confidence in the police and see police actions as legitimate and carried out to protect the public from harm.
  • Transparent: there should be a transparent approach to the use of stop and search powers at individual, supervisory, force and public scrutiny levels.

College of Policing media office: 0203 113 7938, out of hours 07827 309361.

Equality and Human Rights Commission media office: 0161 829 8102, out of hours 07767 272818.

About the College of Policing

The College of Policing is the professional body for policing. It sets professional standards to help forces cut crime and protect the public. The College is here to give everyone in policing the tools, skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The College of Policing will enhance the ability of police forces and individuals to deliver their mission of preventing crime and protecting the public.

The purpose of the College is to provide those working in policing with the skills and knowledge necessary to prevent crime, protect the public, and secure public trust.

It has three complementary functions:

  • Knowledge – develop the research and infrastructure for improving evidence of ‘what works’. Over time, this will ensure that policing practice and standards are based on knowledge, rather than custom and convention.
  • Education – support the development of individual members of the profession. Set educational requirements, to assure the public of the quality and consistency of policing skills, and facilitate the academic accreditation and recognition of members’ expertise.
  • Standards – draw on the best available evidence of ‘what works’ to set standards in policing for forces and individuals. Examples include Authorised Professional Practice (APP) and peer reviews.

Press contact details

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:

0161 829 8102

07767 272 818 (out of hours)