Police Basics

The police are there to uphold the laws of the land, and ultimately to keep people safe.

Police can stop and question you at any time

Stop & Search

A police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have 'reasonable grounds' to suspect you're carrying:

  • Illegal drugs
  • A weapon
  • Stolen property
  • Something that could be used to commit a crime eg. a crowbar

If you refuse to be stopped, the police can use reasonable force to stop and detain you so they can do a search. So don't walk away.

You can be stopped and searched without the 'reasonable grounds', but only if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it is suspected that:

  • Serious violence could take place
  • You're carrying a weapon or have used one
  • You're in a specific location or area

Before you're searched

Police can stop and question you at any time, but before you're searched the police officer must tell you their name and police station, the reason they want to search you, what they expect to find, why they are legally allowed to search you, and that you can have a record of the search.

Removing clothes

A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves. They might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you're wearing for religious reasons, such as a veil or turban, but they must do so out of public view.

If an officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.


To arrest you the police need reasonable grounds to suspect you're involved in a crime for which your arrest is necessary.

The police have powers to arrest you anywhere and at any time, including on the street, at home or at work.

If you're arrested the police must:

  • Identify themselves as the police
  • Tell you that you're being arrested, and what crime they think you've committed
  • Explain why it's necessary to arrest you and thar you're not free to leave
  • If you're under 17 the police should only arrest you at school if it's unavoidable, and they must inform your headteacher.
  • The police must also contact your parents, guardian or carer as soon as possible after your arrival at the police station.

You cannot normally be held for more than 24 hours without being charged or released.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

PCSOs work with police officers. They must wear a uniform clearly marked with PCSO. They share some, but not all of the powers of a police officer.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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