Gone Fishing: The Operation of Police Vehicle Stops in England and Wales

Geoff Pearson, Mike Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyses the operation of police vehicle stop checks in England and Wales. In contrast to other common police powers, vehicle checks are remarkably under-regulated and have received little academic attention, but they are regularly used coercive powers supported by criminal sanction. Based upon a 6-year ethnographic study, including observations of 205 vehicle stops, this article sets out how stop checks are used as part of routine policing. We consider their effectiveness in reducing crime and assess their link to stop and search. Our data cast doubt on the effectiveness of self-generated vehicle stop checks for identifying crime and indicate that they may play a role in driving racial disproportionality in stop and search. We conclude that stop checks should be recorded by officers, which will improve the accountability of the power and could provide important data for uncovering the reasons for racial disproportionality in the use of stop and search.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2023


  • Disproportionality
  • police discretion
  • policing
  • stop and search
  • traffic policing
  • vehicle stops


Dive into the research topics of 'Gone Fishing: The Operation of Police Vehicle Stops in England and Wales'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this