Police Federation

Blog: I’m a black officer and want to share my experience of performing stop & search

7 June 2021

Chair of BAME & Belief group Paul Odle

Chair of PFEW's BAME & Belief group Paul Odle

I have been a police officer with the Met for over 20 years. I am black, and yes, I have performed stop and search.

Last year while I was off duty, I performed a stop and search. A train guard had been threatened with stabbing by a gang of young people, and I was the nearest person who could help. I had no safety equipment, no protective vest, no colleagues to back me up. In addition to my police training, stop and search training was the only tool I had to make sure I wouldn’t be attacked. I had to be incredibly careful but was able to explain to the youths what I was doing and why.

I was able to detain them until British Transport Police arrived and helped me continue the searches, and they did indeed find a knife.

Even under the most ideal circumstances, the decision to perform a stop and search isn’t easy. It’s hugely stressful every time. You don’t know what to expect. Are they going to lash out at you? Make a complaint that could ruin your career? It causes real mental anguish at a moment when you should be using your training to make calm, informed judgements.

There are so many negative, unhelpful views about stop and search out there - some of which is justified. I’ve seen some terrible practice being passed on, which can make the public expect the worst when approached.

The fact is, however, many stop and search incidents end peacefully, even when they are carried out under difficult circumstances, such as my 2020 incident. That’s the truth of stop and search to me.

I’ve personally witnessed officers doing a stop and search being praised by the person they stopped, because the officer conducted themselves professionally and communicated to the person being searched what they were doing, and why - at each stage of the process.

It’s frustrating just seeing negative stories about stop and search on social media. I know that stop and search can save lives and many people stopped and searched understand that.

That’s the story I’d very much like to see on social media.

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