COVID-19 – What you need to know

As we navigate our way around this pandemic to try and contain the spread of the new coronavirus, there are growing fears that overzealous police officers are misusing and at worst abusing their new powers.

The new Regulations allow the police, police community support officers (PCSO) and local authority officers (LAO) to direct people violating the Regulations to go home or disperse, take people home and break up gatherings using force if necessary, and to ensure parents stop their children from breaking the rules. 

Although there is a need for public compliance, we cannot forget the importance safeguarding of our civil liberties. The police have a duty to serve and protect all, especially in such a vulnerable time. For the public to have trust and confidence in the police, they must be assured that policing encounters are fair, necessary and proportionate.

StopWatch are particularly concerned about unnecessary and disproportionate policing interactions occurring and have dedicated this page to providing the latest news. We remain committed to empowering people with knowledge and information to safely engage with the police and will continue to challenge unlawful police conduct and promote better accountability.

If you have been impacted by COVID policing or witnessed an encounter that caused concern, please get in touch with us. As well as offering support, we are keen to record and collate personal testimonials for future advocacy activities.

Please download and read our statement on the current situation, and our booklet 'COVID-19 and the police – What you need to know' (also below), for more information.

Contact Team StopWatch - or call 07399 816 921

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash.


Gangs Matrix - Our work | StopWatch

Gangs Matrix

The Gangs Matrix is a police database consisting of the names the Metropolitan Police perceive to be in a gang and likely to commit violence. The Gangs Matrix was created as a response to the 2011 riots which started in Tottenham and spread across the UK. At StopWatch we are actively trying to encourage people to check if their name is on the Matrix and support those who wish to get their names removed.

The Gangs Matrix is the cause of much controversy as it is disproportionately made up of young black males. StopWatch recently published a report called Being Matrixed – The (Over)policing of gang suspects in London which highlighted the detrimental impact that being labelled a ‘gang nominal’ had on young people from London.

In addition to StopWatch’s work, Amnesty International have also been campaigning against the use of the Matrix and last year published a report called Trapped In The Matrix: Secrecy, stigma, and bias in the Met’s Gangs Database. The Amnesty report found numerous human rights and data protection issues with the Gangs Matrix. The composition of the database was particularly striking with:

  • 80% are aged between 16–24 years old
  • 64% of those on the matrix are ranked as green or low risk
  • 78% are black males
  • 75% have been victims of violence
  • 35% have never been convicted of a serious offence 
  • 15% are minors

How does it work?

Individuals can put on the matrix for a variety of reasons ranging from social media activity, known criminal activity and can be referred by third party institutions such as housing associations, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and other children and community services. You may not have been involved in any criminal activities to be listed on the Gangs Matrix. A third of individuals on the matrix have never committed a crime.

The Gangs Matrix uses an algorithm to determine a score which is then colour coded. Each nominal on the database is categorised as either Green Yellow or Red. The colour is intended to reflect the extent to which that individual poses a risk to others. An individual’s colour score determines the extent to which the police and partner agencies interact with the suspected “gang member”.

Each borough creates their own localised Matrix and is in charge of adding and removing names. The data is stored and relayed back to a centralised database. The personal data of individuals recorded on the Matrix will include some or all the fields of the following information:

  • Full name
  • Nickname
  • Date of birth
  • Home address
  • Ethnicity code
  • Information on whether the individual is a prolific firearms offender or knife carrier
  • Rank and score per Matrix criteria
  • Police intelligence information
  • Partner intelligence information

What happens if I'm on the Matrix?

The repercussions of being on the database can vary. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) enforcement notice states that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) will seek to take enforcement action against identified gang nominals across a range of civil and criminal areas. This means that where prosecution for specific gang-related offences is not possible, “gang members” are targeted more generally. This can include disruption of:

  • Prison license conditions
  • Benefits
  • Housing (including eviction)
  • TV licensing

And / or enforcement of:

  • Increased stop and search
  • Immigration action
  • Parking enforcement / license conditions
  • Exclusions

Stop-Watch, Amnesty International and the ICO have all released reports questioning the legitimacy of the Gangs Matrix. These reports highlight the disproportionality of black young males currently stored on the system and the illegality of sharing data with third party institutions. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) have also released its review of the Gangs Matrix providing an overlook of the Gangs Matrix’s use, composition and practicalities.

How do I know if I'm on the Matrix?

To find out if you are on the Matrix you must make a Subject Access Request (SAR) to your local police station (click on the image for a copy). Templates and information on what you will need to take with you can be found below. If you would like some assistance, or have any questions regarding making a Subject Access Request, feel free to contact us:


General Election 2015 - Our work | StopWatch

General Election 2015

A non-partisan project empowering communities to hold their members of parliament to account and ensure they can represent their views on policing if elected.

We are working with local community groups in a number of constuencies across the country to ensure that their members of parliament and prospective candidates can represent them and their concerns on policing. Some parties already pledged to reform stop and search as part of their election manifestos and StopWatch is working with local partners after the election to ensure continuity. The constituencies are:

  • Bethnal Green and Bow (Tower Hamlets),
  • Birmingham Edgbaston (Birmingham),
  • Birmingham Hall Green (Birmingham),
  • Brent Central (Brent),
  • Dagenham and Rainham (Barking),
  • East Ham (Newham),
  • Hammersmith (Hammersmith and Fulham),
  • Hampstead and Kilburn (Brent and Camden),
  • Nottingham South (Nottingham),
  • Poplar and Limehouse (Tower Hamlets),
  • West Ham (Newham),
  • Westminster North (Westminster)



StopWatch is organising a series of hustings where you can meet your local candidates for your constituency and question them on issues that matter most to you. For more information, please contact

Holborn & St Pancras

On Tuesday 14th April, our local partners the Kentish Town Community Centre hosted a community hustings in partnership with the Crossroads Women’s Centre to give constituents in Holborn & St Pancras the opportunity to question their prospective parliamentary candidates or their representative on issues that mattered most to them. Topics covered incuded issues of crime and policing, housing, immigration, welfare and support for women and famillies.

The candidates and representatives are: Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader and Candidate; Will Blair, Conservative Party Candidate; David O’Sullivan, Socialist Equality Party Candidate; Zack Polanski, Liberal Democrat Activist & Representative.


StopWatch in Parliament

As part of this campaign, we organised an open mic event in the Houses of Parliament, where people and young people from our targeted constituencies and beyond came down for an evening to voice their views on stop and search and share their experiences with MPs and prospective parliamentary candidate. The was held on Tuesday 17th March 2015 and was sponsored and chaired by Dianne Abbot MP.

YStop: Training and Educating Young People - Our work | StopWatch

YStop: Training and Educating Young People

A youth-led project training young people to interact with the police safely and confidently in order to reduce the potential for conflict or harm.

Y-stop is a harm reduction approach to managing contact with the police and is designed to help young people develop the skills and confidence to manage stop and search and reduce the potential for conflict or harm caused by contact with the police. As part of this project, we are working with young people and youth groups across London to support innovative ways of faciliating contact and learning between young people and their police force. The young people we have worked with have led the whole project, made every decision and designed all of our material as we wanted to create something that young people could really use. If you have an idea to make Y-Stop better, let us know!

More information and resources can be found on the dedicated Y-Stop website, including

  • Stop and search bust cards,
  • Lesson plans for schools and college teachers on the law and dealing with a stop and search encounter,
  • Session plans for youth workers,
  • Legal manual,
  • Free stop and search app.


Watch part two



Y-Stop is a collaboration between charities, lawyers, young people, youth workers, community and media organisations. It is hosted by Release and run in partnership with StopWatch.


Stop and Search Your Police & Crime Commissioner - Our work | StopWatch

Stop and Search Your Police & Crime Commissioner

An independent campaign to ensure that those at the sharp end of policing can hold their prospective police and crime commissioners to account, shape their policing priorities and make an informed choice about who to vote for.

Who are Police and Crime Commissioners?

Police and crime commissioners (PCC) are directly elected officials from within each police force area and are supposed to giving local citizens more voice in how their police and criminal justice system works. They are responsible for setting the policing priorities for the force, holding the chief constable to account, setting the budget and they also have wider responsibilities for promoting local criminal justice partnership work. 



    Listen to our podcast on                    Find out how to
who are PCCs and their powers            to lobby your PCC


Results of the 2016 elections can be found here


Meet your commissioners and have your say (2016 Election Campaign)

To help you make an informed decision as to who to vote for, we're teaming up with local partners across the country to organise events where you can meet your PCC candidates, question them and seek pledges from them on issues that matter most to you, your family, friends and your community. We're working in Birmingham, Nottingham and Ipswich but here is a list of other hustings being organised across the country:

  • Blackburn (Lancashire)
      Wednesday 13th April, 1pm to 3pm
      Blackburn Cathedral, Blackburn BB1 5AA
  • Birmingham (West Midlands)
      Wednesday 27th April, 6.30pm-8.30pm
      St Pauls & St Silas Church Centre, 80 Lozells Road, Handsworth, Birmingham
  • Bornemouth (Dorset)
      Tuesday 19th April, 2pm to 4.30pm
      Heathlands Hotel, 12 Grove Road, BH1 3AY
  • Bristol (Avon & Somerset)
      (i) Thursday 14th April, 12noon to 2pm
      Unitarian Meeting Bristol, Brunswick Square, Bristol, BS2 8PE
      (ii) Wednesday 27th April, 7.30pm
      Fielden Theatre, City Academy, Russell Town Avenue, BS5 9JH
  • Cheltenham (Gloucestershire)
      Monday 11th April, 6:30pm to 9:30pm
      TC006, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ
  • Ipswich (Suffolk)
      Thursday 21st April, 6pm to 8pm
      University Campus Suffolk, lecture theatre 2, Long Street, Ipswich IP3 8AH (free parking available)
  • Nottingham (Nottinghamshire)
      Wednesday 20th April, 5.30pm to 7.30pm
      Nottingham Community and Voluntary Services, 7 Mansfield Road, NG1 3FB
  • Worcester (West Mercia)
      Thursday 21st April , 6pm to 8pm
      The University of Worcester. St John’s Campus (room EEG089), Henwick Grove, Worcester WR2 6AJ

A list of running candidates for each area has being compiled by the Police Foundation.



Our 2012 Election Campaign

On November 15 2012, citizens across the country were given the opportunity to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), a single elected person responsible for their police force and local criminal justice partnership work. This represented a radical shift towards localism and giving local citizens more voice in how their police and criminal justice system works.

In the run up to the 2012 elections, StopWatch worked with local partners in three police force areas– Ipswich, Leicester and the West Midlands. In each of these areas, we organised public 'question time' events where local voters could question their candidates on issues that mattered most to them and we also distributed educative material informing them what PCCs are, their powers and how to vote in the election. Our events also ensured that the successful PCC candidates were made aware of the impact that stop and search and other powers had on those most affected by their use and pledge to ensure that it is used more fairly, transparent and in an intelligence-led manner.

For more information, read our PCC manifesto and you can also download, print and distribute our flyer, below.


Research & policy - Our work | StopWatch

Research & policy

StopWatch's Research and Policy Group conducts research and public events on a number of areas relating to stop and search policy and practice, with the aim of ensuring that the public debate and decision-making of policy makers is informed by an evidence-based approach.

The StopWatch Research and Policy Group is made up of academics, those most affected by the use of stop and search, their parents or guardians and members of the public. It raises awareness of a number of areas relating to stop and search, outlined below. To attend our regular public seminars or other events, please check out our events page.

Stop and Account 

In March 2011, the government introduced changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code of Practice A, which governs the use and recording of stop and search. Police forces have been given the discretion to choose whether or not to record ‘stop and account’ and to reduce the recording of stop and search. The changes were made with little consultation despite it threatening to undermine established monitoring structures and erode mechanisms of accountability.

Read our briefing paper, which answer some of the key questions around the recording of police stops: “Carry on Recording” Why police stops should still be recorded, May 2011


Schedule 7 

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides powers in ports and airports for ‘examining officers’to stop, question and/or detain people, if they believe that they are engaged in acts of terrorism, without the need for any reasonable suspicion. Schedule 7 is a highly intrusive stop power and operating outside of the regulatory framework that covers other (police) powers of stop and search. Individuals stopped under the power are not under arrest but may be detained for up to 6 hours wherein they may be questioned; searched (as well as their belongings and vehicles); strip-searched; have data from their electronic items including laptops, mobile phones or tablet PCs; and have samples of their DNA & fingerprints taken from them and placed on the database of convicted terrorists regardless of the outcome of the encounter.

Read our report: Submission to David Anderson QC - Independent Reviewer of Counter-terrorism Legislation Review of powers in 2011


Traffic Stops

Data from the 2011 British Crime Survey has estimated that 10% of adults in England and Wales are subject to a traffic stop every year. Of those stopped, a disproportionate number are of non-white ethnicities. In the years 2008-2011, 11% of white people reported being stopped while in a vehicle, compared with 33% of those from mixed black and white ethnicities and 18% black Caribbean and Asian Muslim.

The British Crime Survey is one of few sources of information on the use of section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Under the power, police officers are not required to record stops that do not lead to a search. This has lead to a significant information gap how the power is being used, and to what extent. StopWatch is continuing concrete research in the area. More information on the methodology of our research with the British Crime Survey’s statistics is available here, and media coverage here

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the national body responsible for inspecting whether police forces are operating efficiently and effectively, recently highlighted the lack of recording and expressed concerns that people from minority ethnic backgrounds were being disproportionately targeted under traffic stops, less likely to be given an explanation as to why they were being stopped and having their vehicle searched and that they were also less likely to be stopped for a valid reason.  The HMIC recommended that the Home Office introduce a statutory duty upon all police forces requiring that these encounters be recorded, that data recorded should be made public and that guidance should be developed for officers using those powers.


Strip Search

Recent data has revealed that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds account for more than half of those strip searched after arrest by the London Metropolitan police in the past 3 years. Current regulations do not require the recording of strip searches before arrest, raising concern for the effective monitoring of police practice in this area. 

Recent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 43 police forces yielded 5 responses or partial responses. There is currently no centralized collection of records of strip search practices and the majority of forces refused to provide information on grounds of cost, while a significant number of forces didn't record data. Of those that responded, it was revealed that between 2010 and 2013, 54 17-year-olds, 52 16-year-olds, 37 15-year-olds, 18 14-year-olds, eight 13-year-olds and two 12-year-olds were searched with their clothing being removed. In Cambridgeshire, out of 34 of these 'intimate searches', 2 led to 'found property', and one led to arrest. There were also incidents of strip searches being carried out in 'public toilets' and a bus station ticket office.

StopWatch will be continuing research in the area. More information on the data aquired through FOI requests is available here.        


The StopWatch Research and Policy Group contributes to consultations both nationally and internationally.

Legal - Our work | StopWatch


The StopWatch Legal Group is made up of lawyers and academics who provide legal advice on stop and search and it is open to welcome new people with an interest working on the issue. Regular meetings are held every two months, if you are interested in getting involved email and we will get in touch with you with further details.

In the past, StopWatch supported two legal challenges:

Stop and account

Application for Judicial Review: Hugh Diedrick v. Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire Constabulary and the Secretary of State

  • Paul Bowen, Doughty Street Chambers, Counsel for the Claimant
  • Sarah McSherry, Christian Khan Solicitors, Solicitors for the Claimant

“Stops” or “stop and accounts” refers to those encounters where police officers stop (and, in many cases, effectively detain) members of the public to ask them to account for their actions, behaviour or presence in an area but do not go on to search them. The police do not have a statutory power to stop and question someone on street but are not required to inform the person stopped that they are free to leave. In 2008 – 09, there were 2,211,598 recorded stop and accounts across England and Wales. There were 2.7 times more stop and accounts of black people than white people and 1.4 times more stop and accounts of Asian people than white people across England and Wales.

In April 2005, after a recommendation from the Macpherson Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, recording and monitoring of stop and account was introduced. In March 2011, the current Government abolished national recording and left it up to individual Chief Constables to decide if they will record stops where there are local concerns about disproportionality. 35 forces out of 43 have since dropped the recording of stop and account; most without any local consultation or equality impact assessment on the decision.

The Judicial Review challenges the decisions of the Chief Constables of Hampshire Police, Thames Valley Police and Hertfordshire Police and the Secretary of State to exercise their discretion not to direct their officers to record Stop and Accounts. The grounds of challenge are that the decision unlawfully failed to comply with the public sector equality duty (PSED) under s 71 Race Relations Act 1968, and continues to be in breach of his PSED under s 149 Equality Act 2010; is unlawful for the purposes of s 6 Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and Schedule 1, Articles 8 and 14; and is contrary to the objects and purposes of the Secretary of State’s duty in s 95 Criminal Justice Act 1991.

StopWatch’s research and policy group produced a report on stop and account in support of the case.

Media coverage

Section 60

Application for Judicial Review: Ann Juliette Roberts v. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Secretary of State.

  • Hugh Southey, Tooks Chambers, Counsel for the Claimant
  • Michael Oswald, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, Solicitors for the Claimant

Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is a provision designed to provide an exceptional response to anticipated violence. Section 60 allows for police officers to be authorized to search any person or vehicle for weapons in an area where serious violence is reasonably anticipated. This authorization lasts 24 hours and can be extended by another 24 hours. Although the legislation limits stop and search to a specific time and place, it does not require police to have any individualized basis of reasonable suspicion for conducting searches.

The Judicial Review challenges whether section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is compatible with articles 5 and/or 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and whether the disproportionate use of searches under section 60 to search black Londoners is a breach of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

StopWatch member, Dr Michael Shiner has written an expert witness statement on section 60.

Media coverage

Stop Search: The Play - Our work | StopWatch

Stop Search: The Play

Stop Search, was a hard-hitting new play exploring the contentious and widespread use of stop and search practices disproportionately targeting young black men in the UK.

​The first production of the play ran at the Broadway Theatre, Catford, London from 27th April to 26th May 2012.

Produced by the Present Theatre Company in association with StopWatch, the play was written by Dominic J. Taylor, who has previously worked at Brixton Prison and the Ministry of Justice, and was produced by celebrated director Thierry Harcourt.

Stop Search represents part of a new direction of work for Stopwatch, one drawing on creative tools to reach new audiences. Part of our strategy is to speak to diverse audiences through film, dance, social media and theatre.

Stop Search creates a theatrical forum to discuss difficult issues of racism and policing. It validates the experiences of those on the receiving end of stop and search. The experience of police racism is, of course, nothing new and black communities have had to deal with the tragic paradox of being over-policed and under-protected for years. Yet, this play, lifts the lid on what too often has been part of the private lives of black people. It speaks to a wider, largely white audience who may not be aware of the practice of stop and search and how it impacts on individuals and communities. As well as laying bare the human costs of stop and search, the play asks those of us who are not on the sharp end of policing whether we are happy with what is being done in our name.

Stop Search draws on the tradition of theatre driving social change around issues of equality and policing. The 1979 “Sus” play and subsequent film, for example, contributed to the repeal of the “Sus” stop and search laws and introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) regulating stop and search in the 1980s. It is our hope that Stop Search will speak to a new generation and encourage positive change around stop and search.

For more information about the Catford production:

The play in the media

Educational pack

Dr Michael Shiner, executive producer of Stop Search has designed an education pack to accompany the play. The education packs have been designed around the Citizenship Programme Key Stages 3 and 4, with additional information intended for use in youth work settings and colleges.

Stop Search educational pack can be downloaded below.


Youth - Our work | StopWatch


The StopWatch Youth Group is made up of young people who advocate for policy change and work with grassroots organisations to inform young people about their rights and raise awareness around stop and search issues.

Young Voices on Stop and Search

Over a ten-month period, StopWatch delivered an advocacy programme to young people in three areas, Bristol, Cardiff and Wellingborough in collaboration with local partners Black South West Network (Bristol), Race Equality First (Cardiff), and Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (Wellingborough). The varied programme kicked off with the groups designing and conducting their own research project. The specific issues addressed through the project were chosen independently by each group so that they reflected local priorities and interests but all aimed to explore and understand young people’s experiences of stop and search and their relationship with the police. In Bristol, the group chose to focus on police community relations; Cardiff looked at young people's understanding of their rights and the Wellingborough group was most passionate about traffic stops. 

A summary of their findings can be found here.


Bristol, Cardiff and Wellinborough Showcase

Young people from Bristol, Cardiff and Wellingborough recently came together to showcase their work, swap ideas and brainstorm how to overcomes challenges faced in meeting their objectives. For example, the Bristol youth group explained how they are working with the Sue Mounstevens, Avon and Somerset's police and crime commissioner, to set up a new process to faciliate police-community engagement. Wellingborough's representative spoke about how they informed police officers of how it felt to be stopped and search through a rap delivered to a national conference of police officers. Inspector Nick Glynn, from the College of Policing, held an open question and answer session with partcipants and there was an exclusive screening of Y-Stop's 'know your rights' film.


Stop and Search Yourself

Back in 2012, the StopWatch Youth Group took to the streets with a flash mob dance routine to highlight concerns about excessive stop and search in the capital.

Members of the Youth Group regularly share their experiences and expertise through blogs and submissions. We also take them to conferences and seminars acround the world to talk about their experiences, how they are seeking to change the way stop and search is used in Great Britain and share best practice with young people from other countries. Past members have gone on to work for youth-related charities, became teachers, set up their own entreprises or kick-started a career in academia.