Saturday, 22 December 2012

Dealing with a Stop and Search

First of all, this post has nothing to do with my usual subject matter. If you're here for musical goodness and geekery then I'm sorry, but this is something I feel I must say.

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/arimoore/
Earlier this week while walking to University I was stopped by two policemen on the street. They asked me to step to the side of the pavement, told me to empty my pockets and hand over my rucksack. One of them patted me down while the other searched through my bag, and then the contents of my pockets. I asked what I had done wrong, but neither of them gave any reason, but I was warned that if I didn't cooperate with them I would be arrested and taken down to the station.

I was given back the contents of my pockets, minus a packet of unopened cigarettes. I was told that I wouldn't be getting them back because "they may contain drugs". I was also warned upon taking my mobile phone out that if I took any pictures or video of them they'd arrest me for non-compliance. I was given no paperwork, but they took my details in case they needed to get in touch with me regarding the search.

The whole ordeal left me feeling very shaken up, and felt both upset and humiliated that I was singled out on the street, searched in public view and made to feel like a criminal.

I have since found out that what they did was not only against police protocol, but also illegal. Officers are required to do the following in the event of a stop and search:
  • Provide their name and the station they work at
  • Tell you why you were stopped and under which law
  • Inform you of what they are looking for before they search you
They must write down your details, but you are not obligated to give your name or address unless you are being arrested or are being reported for an offence. They must also provide you with a copy of the form they fill out, which must include in addition to the above the names and numbers of the officers. If they do not provide you with this information then they are breaking the law.

I was unable to write down the numbers of the officers at the time. I'll be honest, I was so shaken up it didn't occur to me. The optimist in me hopes that this is not a common occurrence, and that most members of the police force do stick to the law. However, if anyone reading this finds themselves in a similar situation I hope that this is some help to you.

Have a wonderful primary gifting season, and keep making music.
Matt
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