The rise and fall (and rise) of suspicionless searches

Professor Ben Bowling
Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, UK

This keynote lecture examines the extraordinary rise and fall of police powers to stop-and-search people without suspicion in public places in England. Suspicionless searches, targeted disproportionately on people of colour, rose to a peak of 360,000 in 2009 and then declined radically to  fewer than 1,000 in 2015. The lecture explains the change in the use of stop-and-search powers drawing on a theory of the police ‘working environment’ comprised of three structures: law, politics and occupational culture. The paper concludes with a consideration of attempts to reform stop-and-search powers in other jurisdictions.