The primary role of the police is to prevent the occurrence of the crimes, and when it occurs, quickly determine the perpetrators and gathering reliable evidence that will confirm the guilty and punish the criminal by the court. To apply their authority, police have to work according to the procedures of Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE). Police powers are the guidelines for the police on how to apply the law to arrest somebody, or how to treat somebody when suspecting a criminal behaviour. However police powers are also a safeguard for the suspect, ensuring that the person stopped or arrested by the police is treated good and there is no violation of human rights. The British police have the powers conferred by the government. The main duties of the police officers is to protect people and property, maintain public order, stop people breaking the law and the arrest of progressing in this way, as well as helping the people in need for assistance and providing them with information and advice.
Police power of stop and search is associated with the rights of a police officer to stop and search in any public place, of any person or vehicle and in this case including what is in or on the vehicle, and any person in the vehicle. The police may stop and search people to detect certain types of crimes. However, they should stop and search only if they have reasonable grounds that the person is carrying drugs, offensive weapons, or the stolen property, also a tool that could be used to make the offense, for example, when breaking into someone’s home. However, police officer can not stop and search a person just because of their age, race, skin color, hair style, manner of dress, or because they made a crime in the past. (Jason- Lloyd, 2005)
These activities include not only people coming into conflict with the law, but also innocent individuals, therefore they should be conducted in a manner that violates the least personal interest of the person for whom they are taken this actions. Therefore when individuals are being stopped and searched by the police, the officer must tell them the reason of why they were stopped, and give them a full explanation of police powers to stop and search, as well as information about their rights. They should also state their name and police station to which they are attached, show proof of their warrant number, and provide a copy of search record. Furthermore they should treat everyone with respect, and always use their force reasonably, when required. Nevertheless, most of stop and search do not result in arrest. After a person being stopped and search, the police officer can established whether there has been committed any arrestable offence, and if such is confirmed they will arrest that person. However, if the person refuses to give his name or address to the police, or the officer believes that he gave false name or address, subsequently this person can be arrested. (Jason- Lloyd, 2005)
“An arrest may be defined as the lawful deprivation of a citizen’s liberty, using whatever degree of lawful force is reasonable necessary and proportionate, in order to assist in the investigation and prevention of crime, to ensure that a citizen is brought before a court or to preserve a person’s safety or others or their property”(Jason- Lloyd, 2005; 61). Police have many categories of arrest, however, the main types of arrest are arrest without warrant and arrest with warrant. Arrest without warrant is the most common type of arrest. Police officer have the power to arrest any person if he have a reasonable grounds to suspect that he committed a crime or, is guilty of committing a crime, or is willing to commit a crime.
When someone is committing an arrestable crime there is no need for a warrant in order to arrest him. However, if the person is arrested without committing the arrestable offence, then that arrest is unlawful. “No person shall be deprived of their liberty without lawful reason”(Jason- Lloyd, 2005; 61). The suspect has to be informed by the officer, that he is under arrest also about the ground of his arrest. Otherwise if he is arrested without being acknowledged of this action and the grounds for his arrest, the arrest is not lawful, as also stated by the Convention oh Human Rights (English and Card, 2005). Also when arresting the suspect the police officer have the duty to alert the suspect that he have “the right to remain silent” ((Jason- Lloyd, 2005; 64). Therefore if the suspect is not acknowledged of his rights before the questioning by the investigator, the judge can exclude all the information that they gathered (Stelfox, 2009). If person failed to act in accordance with police requirements, such us not attended the police station in order to have a body samples taken, or breaking the regulations of answering the bail, police officer have the power to arrest this person.
The Police have also the power of search and seizure the property. This occurs when the person is arrested in a place different that police station. The police officer have the right to seize and retain everything what he believes may be used by suspect as a tool to make injury to himself or other people, or what could be an evidence against him. The constable may also ask the suspect to remove his jacket and gloves in a public place, however he have no right to ask him to remove different clothing. The constable has the right to search a person if he has a reason to believe that this person has evidence relevant to the offence. As an example, when the police officer will arrest a thief outside of the premises where he committed an offence, it is very likely that the thief could dispense evidence property at this premises, therefore the constable is empowered to search the premises in order to find any relevant evidence. In this case the constable have the right to seizure and retain any property, which he believes the person may use it to escape from custody or if it is evidence to an offence. (English and Card, 2005)
The police have also the power to arrest a person for a breach of peace. The definition of the breach of peace is:
B) harm is actually done, or is likely to be done, to a person’s property in his presence; or
c) a person is genuinely in fear of harm to himself or to his property in his presence as a result of an assault, affray, riot, or other disturbance.”
(English and Card, 2005; 787)
In these circumstances the police officer have the right to arrest the person without warrant, if the breach is committed in his presence, or he believes that he will commit breach if he will not be arrested. The police officer has also the power to enter the premises to solve the breaches of the peace. However, it is easy to violate the Human Rights Act 1998, article 8: “the right to respect for one’s private and family life” (Stelfox, 2009; 65), therefore police officers prior to entering the private premises should ensure that the danger of breach of peace really occur.
Another code of practise, called the Code of Practise for the Detention, Treatment and Questioning of Persons by Police Officers. This code is concern with person in custody at police station.
There is a 24 hours detention limit, however in more serious crimes additional 12 hours can be requested. Police officers must follow the procedures of detention code in order to obtain evidence lawfully. However, if they breach the procedures of this code, the court will exclude any evidence obtained this way, in addition it can also result in disciplinary offence. The suspect must always be informed about his right to legal advice and the ability to obtain legal advice before questioning. He can choose between duty solicitor, solicitor from list of legal advice, and private solicitor. Suspect has the right to speak to his solicitor privately, in person, in writing or by telephone (English and Card, 2005). The Human Rights Act support the right of suspect to have a private conversation with his solicitor, therefore not acting in accordance with this procedure will result in breaching of the human rights (English and Card, 2005).
The custody officer has to deal with any person, who attends police station under arrest, or in order to answer to bail, or person arrested after attending police station voluntarily. The role of custody officer is to take care of the suspect, and to keep the custody records (English and Card, 2005). All suspects must be interview by the police officer, and they take place in police station. The interview can be tape recorded, visual recorded or written. The suspect have the right to refuse the tape recording, however the interviewer can make decision to use this method against suspect’s wish. The suspect has to sign the forms of interview, when the record is correct. If the police will act unfairly, and will not informed the suspect and his solicitor about any notes made in interview, this may lead to excluding this evidence by court, same apply to the statements obtained by force. Suspect has also the right to silence. The vulnerable suspects, who are at risk in an interview, must get medical help before the interview. Children and mentally ill suspects have to be interview in the presence of appropriate adult (Williamson, 2006).
The PACE is also concerned with the identification methods used by the police to identify people associated with crimes. There are three methods used by the police identification: witness, fingerprints and body samples (for example DNA, blood) (Stelfox, 2009).
Identification by witness occurs when the witness of the crime, identify the suspect in the video identification or identification parade. The suspect should be informed of the reason of such identification and provided with legal advice as well as provided with a notice of all relevant information regarding this identification. He should also be informed that if will not give a consent to this identification, this can be used as evidence in court, and the police officer may proceed without his consent. Police powers also include taking photographs of suspect, with or without their consent. The photographs can be taken only for the purpose of preventing or detecting a crime (English and Card, 2005). All the photographs taken for identification of person, which have not been detained, have to be destroyed.
Identification by fingerprints occurs with or without person consent. However, there are certain criteria, by which fingerprints can be taken without suspect consent. Taking fingerprints form a person without their consent is allowed when the police officer have a reasonable grounds that suspect fingerprints will verify or refute his involvement in criminal offence. Also from a person who has been charged with an offence, but did not provide so far his fingerprints to the police. (English and Card, 2005)
Identification by the body samples includes intimate samples such us blood, semen, urine etc. as well as non-intimate samples (English and Card, 2005). These samples can be obtained from the suspect only with his written consent. This type of sample can only be taken with the authorisation of police inspector, and only when he have reasonable grounds to believe that this person is involved in a serious arrestable offence. A registered doctor, nurse or paramedic must obtain these types of intimate samples, however this doesn’t include the urine sample. Suspect should be informed that refusal of providing these samples may have an impact in his trial.
Non-intimate samples are hair, samples from or under the nail, etc. These samples can be collected only with written consent. However if the person is in custody on suspicion of committing a serious crime and the police do not have his body sample, it may be obtain without his consent. Also the police inspector can authorise the collection of his body sample without his consent. His body samples can be used for DNA analysis, for the purpose of elimination, preventing or detecting a crime. Police may compare DNA and store it in National DNA database. The critics argue that the gathering all this information are a violation of human rights, and that police authorities have no respect for private life. (Jason- Lloyd, 2005)
There are some concerns of the dissatisfied public regarding police bahaviour. Police have a negative image of the ethnic minority, for example young black or Asian males. Despite the fact that discrimination of race is against the law, it doesn’t guarantee that they will be treated equally. Some police officers have racist attitudes. They tend to arrest, as well as stop and search black people more often, because they are more suspicious towards them. This is also associated with the stereotypical thinking that black males are criminals. (Cashmore and McLaughlin, 1991). “Young blacks over the past twenty- odd years have been accorded a similar distinction: officially defined as a social problem and given special treatment, which has in turn emphasized their problematic status” (Cashmore and McLaughlin, 1991; 10).
The police is still one of the most important institution and have a particular role in the country. The police have many rules and procedures in applying their power; also police powers are affecting the sphere of rights and freedoms of man and citizen. Most of the regulations are a safeguard for the rights of suspect. However, in some cases, like the racist behaviour of police officers these rules may be breached. However, despite the fact that after analyzing the functioning of the Police and noticing some inadequacy or doubts, it seems that it accomplish its responsibility appropriately. This is accomplished through cooperation with other authorities, as well as fulfilling their own laws, in the matter of protection of public safety and to maintain security and public order.
Cashmore, E. and McLaughlin, E. (1991) Out of Order? Policing Black People, London: Routledge.
Drake, D., Muncie, J and Westmarland, L. (2010) Criminal Justice Local and Global, Cullomptom: Willan Publishing.
English, J. and Card, R (9th Edition, 2005) Police Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Holdaway, S. (1983) Inside the British Police, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Jason- Lloyd, L. (2nd Edition, 2005) Introduction to policing ; Police Power, London: Cavendish Publishing Limited.
Pike, M.S. (1985) The Principle of Policing, London: The Macmillan Press Ltd.
Selfox, P. (2009) Criminal Investigation An Introduction To Principles and Practice, Cullomptom: Willan Publishing.
Williamson, T. (ed., 2006) Investigative Interviewing Rights, Research, Regulation, Cullomptom: Willan Publishing