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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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In Cuffs, in Custody…and Still Dangerous

May 30, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

Here is a common scene: Cop handcuffs suspect and places him in the backseat of a waiting patrol car. In the movies, this is usually performed with a dramatic flourish punctuated by a Miranda warning. In real life, this is sometimes punctuated by tragedy.

Once inside the back of a patrol car, suspects have been known to access firearms—often missed as a result of poor or non-existent searches—to kill themselves or others, usually, cops.

Consider these examples: A St. Louis officer was killed and another wounded when a backseat prisoner was able to retrieve a .22 revolver from the small of his back. An Avon, Ohio, woman, handcuffed and seated in the backseat of a patrol car, was nonetheless able to avail herself of a firearm she had hidden in her purse and shot herself.

Requesting backup is of paramount importance. Many cops routinely conduct second searches of locations and vehicles on behalf of their fellow officers, so, too, should they consider a similar practice when it comes to prisoners.

The second officer can maintain a vigil on the seated suspect for any telltale signs of squirming, wiggling, attempts to vacate his cuffs, or otherwise gain escape.

Guns have been found in wigs, anal cavities, vaginas, shoes, crotches—name a place that can accommodate a firearm—odds are, it has. That's why so much trouble can be avoided by a thorough search.

Suspects can cry hemorrhoids and point to back braces to explain away exotic bulges under their garments. But "Is that a gun or are you just happy to see me" jokes aside, it's important to leave no ambiguity as to what a suspect is carrying on/in his or her person. And when it comes to the fairer sex, the male officer should never shy away from asking a sister officer to roll for a female search.

Field booking searches often lead to the discovery of contraband, which is then immediately seized from the suspect. With appalling frequency, some of these articles are then stuffed back in the suspect's jacket or pants. Instead, the search should be an end-all, one wherein all of the prisoner's belongings are removed and booked in with his other property or evidence.

Obviously, it is equally important to separate suspects from their belongings. Articles such as purses, handbags, and backpacks, if destined for transport with the suspect, should be secured in the trunk of the patrol car.

Finally, even when the suspect has been thoroughly searched, never take their backseat presence for granted. Many suspects have been known to steal patrol cars, which often contain shotguns and long guns, thereby rendering otherwise officer safety conscious practices for naught.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Nolan @ 6/25/2007 12:48 PM

If the detainee is wearing a belt, slip the cuffs around or over the belt. Or try and slip one cuff through a belt loop if no belt is worn. This will help keep their hands secured. Back in the 80's when I was still a cop I had three different situations where the person detained/arrested stepped through the cuffs while standing or or slid the cuffs under their legs while seated in the back seat of a patrol car. They did this with the cuffs behind their backs. I was surprised at this, but some people are limber enough to do this. Another time
I observed a woman that another officer had arrested pull a cigarette and lighter from her front pocket and put it in her mouth and light it and take a big drag. She did that with her hands cuffed behind her. So I got in the habit of putting the cuffs around the belt or through a belt loop if at all possible. It isn't that hard to do and may save you a lot of trouble or worse.

dsantagata @ 7/23/2007 12:36 PM

I believe that all prisoners should be hand cuffed behind the subject. If they had on a belt, I would always cuff one hand, then slid the 2nd cuff under the belt then cuff the second hand. And, ALWAYS cuff " Back Wrist to back wrist" (with the palms facing away). Also, I would Always DOUBLE LOCK each cuff. And, Put on their seat belt & shoulder harness. That way they have very little room, to "wiggle around". If you make a practice to ALWAY'S Cuff in this manner, it becomes Second nature...Easy, and Secure !

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