Stop and Search: Towards a Transnational and Comparative Approach
Police Powers and Criminal Justice: Examining Stop and Search edited by Rebekah Delsol and Michael Shiner. London: Palgrave, Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 4, 2015
The power to stop people in public places, to question them and to search their person and belongings is common to policing worldwide. Drawing on the small, but growing academic literature on ‘stop and search’ in a range of different geographical and institutional settings, this paper examines the use of this power in theory and in practice. It explores the range of purposes for which stop and search is deployed including the often vaguely defined general goals of security, crime prevention and counter-terrorism. The paper contends that stop and search is the widest and least circumscribed coercive power of government. Although it is often socially invisible, stop and search is among the first and most frequent contacts between police and public and has far-reaching consequences. The paper reflects on the problems of ensuring that police power is constrained by mechanisms of transparency, accountability and respect for human rights and that this is particularly important as police power globalizes. We argue that the way forward is to develop an agenda for transnational and comparative research to provide the basis for mechanisms to ensure that increasingly globally connected police power can be held to account.
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