1 January 2006

Regulating stop and search: a challenge for police and community relations in England & Wales

Rebekah Delsol's avatar

Policing in England and Wales has become increasingly contested since the 1960s and has been subject to unprecedented levels of public scrutiny. Stop and search powers have played a central role in this process and, though often described as an essential part of modern policing, have continued to provide a flashpoint in police– community relations.

In this article the authors, Rebekah Delsol and Michael Shiner briefly review the history of stop and search in England and Wales, drawing particular attention to the concerns that have been raised about the use of this power in relation to minority ethnic communities. The article goes on to consider how issues of public trust and confidence have been addressed and raises questions about the effectiveness of efforts to regulate this area of activity. Finally, we suggest that regulation has become too tightly bound to ‘‘race’’ and measures of disproportionality. Instead, we argue that the current focus on ‘‘race’’ should be broadened to include other groups that may be subject to over-policing and that monitoring should be based on a system of triangulation, which combines multiple indicators and mixed methods.

This research document is available to download below.