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Understanding police stop&search practices in Europe



Description: ‘Stop and search’ (S&S) is a worldwide practice carried out by the police to enable officers to stop a person, prevent him or her from pursuing his or her passage (Bowling & Philips, 2007; Bowling & Weber, 2011), and if deemed necessary, proceed with a search. Two types of S&S approaches can be distinguished: the reactive approach and the proactive approach. In the former, the police decide to stop someone for suspicious behaviour, or in suspicious circumstances, in order to uncover evidence of criminal activity, while the latter occurs when the goal is to deter future offences and maintain public order (Murray, 2014). The proactive approach fits well within the current ‘culture of control’ which aims to spot ‘risky’ individuals as soon as possible (van der Leun & van der Woude, 2011). In various European countries S&S has been a source of controversy. It has been argued that S&S principally targets certain population groups, and more specifically youngsters and minority groups through ethnic profiling strategies (Delsol & Shiner, 2006; Sollund, 2006). Consequently, S&S is a rather controversial practice, which can have a negative effect on the public, as well as affect the legitimacy of the police (Bowling & Phillips, 2007; van der Leun et al., 2014; Quinton, 2013). Despite the heated debates that exist around S&S in Europe, cross-country scientific research has seldom been carried out on the practice. Therefore, this research project will deepen and exchange knowledge and understanding of police stops in Europe.

Outputs: Polstops expects to deliver: academic publications; short-term scientific missions; dissemination of findings and participation in international events and seminars; training schools; blogs; and an interactive online map with country specific information on incidents of police stop and search.

Coordinator: Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) Sofie De Kimpe (Chair), Mirko Miceli (Grant Holder Manager); Kristof Verfaillie (Financial Representative and Working Group 4 Co-Leader)

Parters: 23 different countries

Funding: COST Action 17102

Duration: 4 years (2018-2022)