Stop and Search

If it were me, you wouldn’t do that

Just cos it’s him that he went through that.

Stop him. Search him. And again.

In front of passers by and friends

On Oxford street, in Cambridge, Birmingham, Newcastle, Cornwall, Bath

If it were me, you’d walk straight past

If it were me, I’d be alright.

Because I don’t look like the type to carry knives or commit crimes.


I mean, I’m middle class richer / older and I’m light

So know in Britain we give some the right

To carry ammunition

And in Britain we give some the right

To stop and search on pure suspicion

To stop people on the streets and search their bags and clothing on a hunch

A hunch where

Asian and Asian British people get stopped 17 times as much

And Black or Black British people twice as much again

And still those in charge defend it

That these stops should carry on

When over 91% of the stops they made were wrong

Still they cannot see a problem

If you’re innocent it’s fine they say.

We’ll search you then you move along

A short waste of your time they say

A big waste of time I think if 91% are wrong

A waste of my taxes just to move someone along

And a humiliating time to be one of those stopped and searched

Given dirty looks by passers by

Not allowed to question why

Still you stay stop and search is fine

Even if those stopped are hurt

It shows us public we’re protected

It shows police are on the search

It shows more bobbies on the block 

It shows our cops are on the pace

It’s just a shame that what we see is based so much more on race

Or the look of someone’s face

Or any of the other false impressions we might make

Of what a criminal would be

A teenager I teach has now been stopped 3 times one single day.

She’s never set a foot wrong but she says that she might start today.

Cos that’s obviously the type of kid she is in the UK.

A label she can’t scrape away, she says it’s written on her face

Written on her tracksuit hems or the earrings that she wears

She says she feels the people stare at her

As police stop and search

She says it makes her wanna punch the lights out of them all

She says it makes her want to start a fight

Still you say stop and search is fine, all right

It shows the public that they’re safe

No mention of the feelings of the ones you stop and say:

“Excuse me, will you show me what’s in your bag please”

“Let me check your coat”

“Don’t talk back”

“Don’t get aggressive”

“I am allowed to search you”

“You look suspicious’

No mention of the attitude

Of those facing these intrusions

No matter of the way these stops

Continue our confusion between

Someone who is guilty and someone the police misjudged

Of someone they feel a hunch for and someone who is right

Someone who’s committed crime and someone who’s not white

Or someone’s who looks ‘like the type’ who might have something on them.

Cos out of over 1 million stops made

91% were wrong then

91% were shamed

91% were watched by people walking past false claims again

91% were angered

91% felt judged

91% lost more faith in police and government

91% were watched by public seeing darker skin or tracksuit hoods

91% were seen as guilty by those walking past with frowning looks

91% were scared, or hurt, or scarred or raged and

91% do not just get on with their day.

And over 90% of those arrested, had no charges later made.

My friend has the right face for that

Stopped and searched again

Stopped and searched again

Stopped and searched again

And handcuffed with the first complaint

Four stripes up his wrist

And a footprint on his face

And a new pent up anger for the government and state

Scars from metal handcuffs that remind him every day

He wasn’t charged of course

Just stopped and searched

Arrested now 2 times

He must’ve looked the type

Taken 10 days off his job just

For court to be reset

He must’ve looked the type

Worried he could lose his job

Despite the false arrest

He must’ve looked the type

Paid trains fees, London transport

Felt his skin tone shine

He must’ve looked the type

Who’s stopped and searched

Then released without a charge for not committing crime.

Still the bosses say its fine.

Makes us public feel more safe

Until we’re the ones stopped and search

For our style or our face

Or our social class or race.

Still it’s good the bosses say

It makes the streets feel safe

As we see certain people stopped and search

Another time, another place

Creating scenes for passers by

Where we can’t tell who’s side we’re on

And assume the one being stopped

Must’ve done something wrong

Must be making crime

And so prejudices rise

Still the bosses say it’s fine.

Perhaps that’s because most bosses here

Are middle class and white.

And have never been stopped or searched

Falsely in their life


Hollie McNish is a published UK poet and spoken word artist, based between London and Cambridge. She has released two poetry albums, ‘Touch’ and ‘Push’. She was UK Slam poetry champion in 2009, coming third in the World Finals in Paris. Performances at venues such as Glastonbury festival, the Royal Albert Hall, Ronnie Scotts Jazz Bar, London’s Southbank Centre and Cambridge University have seen her perform to a large cross section of people from all walks of life.


While government watches you, who watches the government?