Press Release

Police stops in Europe: everyone has a right to equal treatment

African-American black driver is being pulled off by mixed-race female police officer.
daniilvolkov ©, 2021
A new paper by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reveals the differences between people’s experiences with police stops. It shows that Black people, Asians and Roma are still more likely to be stopped and searched by police, which also affects their trust in policing. FRA will continue providing EU countries with data and guidance to support them in ensuring their policing practices respect people’s fundamental rights.

“Everyone has a right to be treated equally, including by the police,” says FRA director Michael O’Flaherty. “One year ago, the Black Lives Matter protests underscored the need to tackle racism and discrimination that are still all too common in our societies. It is time to rebuild trust among all communities and ensure police stops are always fair, justified and proportionate.”

The ‘Your rights matter: police stops’ paper compares people’s experiences with police stops in Europe.

The paper draws on findings from FRA surveys and for the first time shows differences between the general population and ethnic minorities across EU Member States.

Overall, the police most often stop men, young people, ethnic minorities, Muslims or people who do not identify as heterosexual.

In some countries, police stopped almost 50% of people from certain minorities, shows the EU Minorities and Discrimination Survey.

The police searched or asked 34% of ethnic minorities for their identity papers compared to 14% of people generally.

The context for a police stop can affect the way people experience them. Most people are stopped while driving, but most minorities are stopped while on foot.

Moreover, in some countries, over 80% of ethnic minorities perceived the most recent police stop as ethnic profiling.

Perceptions of profiling may be less common when people are stopped while driving because this is more likely to involve random checks unrelated to the personal characteristics of the person being stopped.

Those who experience ethnic profiling also show lower trust in public authorities than those who do not.

When it comes to treatment during police stops, 80% of people generally say that the police treated them respectfully. By contrast, 46% of minorities say so. Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden show the biggest differences in how people and ethnic minorities perceive the police stop.  

FRA renews its call on EU countries to fight discrimination and end unlawful ethnic profiling.

To support police officers in avoiding this practice, FRA published a Guide on how to avoid unlawful profiling. The guide includes practical information the police can use in their everyday work.

Background information:

The paper is one of a series of thematic ‘Your rights matter’ publications looking at people’s views and experiences of fundamental rights.

It draws on findings from FRA’s Fundamental Rights Survey (2020), EU Minorities and Discrimination Survey (2017) and its Roma and Travellers Survey (2020).

In this series, FRA has already published reports on ‘What do fundamental rights mean for people in the EU?’ and ‘Crime, safety and victims’ rights’ and two papers on ‘Data protection and privacy’ and ‘Security concerns and experiences’.

For more, please / Tel.: +43 1 580 30 653