The police can stop and question you at any time but they can only stop and search you if they have grounds to do so. The officer does not have to be in uniform to search you but if they are wearing plain clothes, they must show their warrant card before searching you. You must also be in a public place or a place to which the public have access.
Whereas a Community Support Officer (CSO) is allowed to stop and question you whilst in uniform but they cannot search you or your vehicle. You do not have to stop and answer these questions.
For a police officer to search you or your vehicle, she must have reasonable grounds to suspect that she will find stolen or prohibited articles. Prohibited articles could be illegal drugs, weapons, fireworks (in some circumstances), or anything which could be used to commit a crime, such as a screw driver or crow bar.
There are occasions when you may be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds but this will have been authorised in advance by a senior police officer and be for a specific area.
Before you are searched you must be told the reasonable grounds for the search. The officer must also tell you their name and/or number and the police station they are attached to.
The officer must also tell you what items they are searching you or your vehicle for, along with which legal powers they are using to carry out the search.
The police must make a record of every person or vehicle they search. Each person searched is entitled to a record but if both a person and their vehicle is searched, then only one record is required.
You are entitled to a copy of the search record made by the officer at the time of the search. If a record is not provided to you at the time of the search, the officer must explain why it is unpracticable to do so. If this is the case, then the officer must tell how you can obtain a copy of the search record and that the request can be made within twelve months of the search.
You may be stopped and searched by a male or female officer and during the search, they can only ask you to voluntarily take off your coat, jacket or gloves. If the officer asks you to remove your hat or other items of clothing, this must be done out of the sight of the general public, even if the street is deserted, and by an officer of the same sex as you. The police can detain you to carry out the search but this is not the same as being arrested and you do not need to be cautioned unless the officer suspects you of an offence.