HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS)
Printable version

Police must apply safeguards and improve scrutiny to minimise harm when using stop and search

The police must do more to minimise harm when using their stop and search powers and to better understand the effectiveness of these powers, a new report has found.

Get the report : Report on the Criminal Justice Alliance’s super-complaint – Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and independent community scrutiny of stop and search

A police super-complaint* submitted by the Criminal Justice Alliance raised concerns about the harms caused by “suspicion-less” section 60** stop and searches and inadequate scrutiny of all stop and search powers.

Following a joint investigation into these concerns, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the College of Policing (CoP) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found that police forces should improve how they explain and evaluate their use of section 60.

The report states that the police must do more to apply existing safeguards to minimise any harm when they use section 60. These include the CoP’s authorised professional practice and the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s guidance on body-worn video. Investigators found concerning examples where these had not been properly applied.

The report said that forces should be providing training on section 60 that meets the national police curriculum requirements. Investigators found that currently, too many officers who authorise the power, and those who conduct the searches, aren’t receiving the training they need.

The report confirms that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be stopped and searched under section 60 – however, none of the forces that investigators engaged with could fully explain why. The report concludes that, while forces may recognise the effects of disproportionality on people and communities, they don’t take this matter seriously enough.

The report makes ten recommendations, including that chief constables ensure that:

  • all officers understand and comply with their responsibility to safeguard children who are stopped and searched;
  • forces communicate effectively with communities on the police use of section 60 stop and search powers; and
  • briefings on section 60 operations are recorded and are subject to scrutiny.

The report also makes recommendations to improve how forces work with community scrutiny panels, which help to play an important role in reviewing how police use stop and search powers. Panels should include people affected by stop and search, and panel members must have appropriate training and support.

In support of the recommendations, the CoP will undertake further activity to help the police improve decision making on their use of stop and search. HMICFRS will review progress forces make against the recommendations in this report.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Wendy Williams said:

“We know that, when used properly, section 60 stop and search can support the police response to serious violence. However, the use of the power can have detrimental effects on public trust and confidence in the police, particularly among Black communities.

“It’s vital that forces understand the importance of using section 60 stop and search legitimately, proportionately and fairly. We found this was often the case, but we also saw a range of shortcomings. And these often mirrored the Criminal Justice Alliance’s concerns. As a result, we have made ten recommendations. These are to help ensure forces only use the power when necessary, use it effectively, and evaluate its use.

“We thank the Criminal Justice Alliance for submitting this super-complaint, which has highlighted the need for ongoing scrutiny, and to make sure the use of stop and search effectively supports the police in keeping the public safe.”

Kathie Cashell, IOPC acting Deputy Director General said:

“Stop and search, including “suspicion-less” stop and search under section 60, is an important policing tactic which supports the police response to serious violence and knife crime. However, it is also an intrusive policing power which can impact negatively on those subjected to it.

“Many of the findings from this investigation mirror those raised in previous reports and inquiries so policing must ensure that it applies existing safeguards and effective community scrutiny, to minimise any harm when stop and search is used.

“If the police service is to build and retain confidence in its use of section 60 stop and search, more needs to be done to understand and evaluate its effectiveness and to explain this to communities where it is used.”

Andy Walker, Head of Uniformed Policing at the College of Policing, said:

“The targeted use of stop and search can support the police response to serious violence. However, it must be used lawfully, proportionately and fairly to ensure public trust and confidence in policing.  Our joint investigation of this super-complaint highlights the importance of policing applying these principles, especially when using wide stop and search powers like section 60.

“Following the investigation, the College will be supporting policing to apply stop and search powers appropriately by reviewing and updating the stop and search national policing curriculum. The update will help forces deliver regular stop and search training, focused on priority areas such as safeguarding around searching children and using section 60 search.

“We are aiming to work alongside the National Police Chiefs’ Council to set minimum requirements for recording, briefing and reviewing decisions to authorise section 60 search. This will provide tactical support to senior officers responding to serious violence. We will submit a bid for research funding so we can evaluate what works to improve officer use of stop and search.”


  • For further information, please contact the HMICFRS Press Office on 0300 071 6781 or (e-mail address)
  • *You can find more information about super-complaints on the GOV.UK website.
  • The super-complaint submitted by the Criminal Justice Alliance can be accessed on their website.
  • **The “suspicion-less” stop and searches to which the Criminal Justice Alliance refers are those the police carry out using their powers under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. A section 60 authorisation gives the police powers to stop and search people and vehicles, without suspicion, for “offensive weapons or dangerous instruments”. These powers only apply to a designated locality in a police force area for a set period.
Channel website:

Original article link:

Share this article

Latest News from
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS)

Exclusive offers, deals and discounts available to public sector staff, past and present!