Stop, Search and Detain

Back in my day (watch the blue lamp swinging) in London (the Metropolitan Police) we used S66 Metropolitan Police Act 1839 which with reasonable suspicion allowed police to stop search and detain anyone suspected of committing an offence.

It was the most valuable method we had of detecting lawbreakers.

It was surrounded by case law. Every possible situation had been dealt with before,and a case stated that could be relied upon.

Over recent years that power has been reduced. Often because of that oft-quoted phrase, ‘You are only doing this ‘cos I’m black.’ That was rarely the case, although I’ll not defend the occasional racist. 

It had an important influence. Everyone knew we had that power. It was rarely questioned. It helped to continue the reputation that we then enjoyed, with cries of ‘Aren’t our police wonderful!’

As a police sergeant I had an important duty. A person brought before me, having been detained  was taken to the Charge Room. There the arresting officer would describe the actions taken before the arrest, and the reason for the arrest. I would question both the officer and the arrested person.

At that point I would make a decision. Should this person be charged, and for what offence? Was there sufficient evidence to justify that charge?

If there was, in my opinion, insufficient evidence the person would be released. On some occasions they were bailed to reappear at a later stage, if further enquiries were needed.

Or they were formally charged and cautioned.

They would appear at the local Magistrates Court as soon as practicable.

My part in the operation normally ended at that stage.

As I left the police, to go to university, I was interviewed by my local Commander. Asked why I was leaving I said we were losing touch with the people. Young officers were no longer walking the streets, getting to know people. Instead they were, in pairs, in cars responding to emergency calls. The young officers believed that everyone they met was stressed, or a criminal. Decent folk did not enter their lives.

My Commander told me he’d mark my papers, not to be re-employed without a fundamental change of attitude.

So ended my career as a police officer. Months later my marriage collapsed.

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