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Search Engines

Portable and stationary metal detectors give you an edge over even the most creative detainees.

April 01, 2002  |  by - Also by this author

Garrett makes a wide range of metal detectors for law enforcement, including wands, paddles, and walk-through systems.

When it comes to dealing with the usual suspects, we cops lack Superman's x-ray vision, and most of us are bereft of Jeane Dixon's psychic powers. To compensate, our B.S. detectors generally function pretty well, and we can always rely on Terry v. Ohio to justify our cursory pat-down searches of those who may not have our best interests at heart.

But despite its appellation, there is nothing "cursory" about a good protective search. Conducting a thorough head-to-toe search requires as intrusive a probing as garments will allow. Beyond the pat-down lies the rub, the strip search, the visual body search, the cavity search, and the ever-popular digital body search. With each succeeding level of intrusion, the greater the need for legal justification.

Once the legal justifications are in order, other considerations need to be addressed. Can the search be conducted in a safe manner? For example, is your center of gravity compromised by the stature of the person being searched?

Also, there are sanitary considerations. No cop likes the thought of dealing with a detainee whose hygiene is as suspect as his character. Going "hands-on" with a subject who's vomited, urinated, defecated, or otherwise done nasty things to his person is enough to diminish any cop's vigilant enthusiasm.

Add to these factors a desire to avoid embarrassment at the possibility of missing something-as much as the possibility of getting killed if you do-and it's no wonder that your need to maximize security while minimizing impositions can, at times, seem daunting.

It needn't be that way.

When it comes to the least intrusive means of assuaging fears and placating modesties, the answer for many agencies is the metal detector. Already a fixture in many of the country's schools, courts, and airports, there is an increased demand within the private and public sectors for its use. In these days of school snipings, mass murders, workplace shootings, and terrorist attacks, this is known as preventive maintenance.

The metal detector can be not only a less intrusive means for you to conduct searches, but also a more expedient one. It can obviate the need for a male officer to wait for a female peer to respond for a pat-down search of a female subject. And besides being an equalizer in cross-gender searches, metal detectors give you a safe and efficient means of completing investigative detentions without feeling as vulnerable as you might otherwise.

Metal detectors can be used to locate everything from knives, to guns, to bombs (many have metal fuses) and, with more sensitive models, razor blades and hypodermic needles. In the absence of a canine, a metal detector can even assist in locating discarded firearms and burglary tools in grass and weeds. Ironically, despite their effectiveness, metal detectors require fewer legal justifications than a Terry pat-down.

Magnetic Resonance

Metal detectors work by transmitting low intensity magnetic fields that react when they come into contact with metal objects. The disruption of the magnetic waves causes a ripple effect around the metal surface. Similar to throwing a rock into a pond, the ripples emanate outward and are then detected by the metal detector's receiver. Using this information, the metal detector can determine the general size, shape, and location of the metal object.

When it comes to design and purpose, there are two primary types of metal detectors: the stationary and the portable. Between them, everything between Mohammed and the Mountain is covered.

The inducements for a department to purchase metal detectors are myriad. The Roseville (Mich.) Police Department decided to equip every patrol car with a handheld metal detector in response to the recent death of Warren (Mich.) Detective Sgt. Chris Wouters. Roseville Councilman Jim Zelmanski suggested each scout car in Roseville get a detector in response to the slaying of Wouters, who died after a suspect sneaked a handgun into the police lockup and shot him during a struggle.


When evaluating a department's need for metal detectors, the carpenter's maxim "the right tool for the right job" comes to mind.

To screen large numbers of persons at points of entry, stationary walk-through detectors are the tool of choice. They can be found in courtrooms and airports.

Once a set of keys, a belt buckle, and loose change have been secured, a non-threatening visitor can pass through a detection portal without further delay. Similarly, parcels can be scanned for weapons. And walk-through detectors are certainly less apt to offend one's sense of modesty than the anatomically defining x-ray machines found in airports.

Stationary detectors run the gamut from portals to chairs and can be housed in everything from station lobbies to the jails (where privacy issues are a lesser concern). In fact, the Body Orifice Security Scanner (B.O.S.S.) produced by Ranger Security was instrumental in helping solve a recent murder. The victim's missing jewelry was located during a routine security screening of a prisoner using this chair-like apparatus, which provides a non-intrusive way to scan all bodily orifices. Beyond that, 1,500 stabbings and slashings occurred in New York City's jails in 1990. Last year this figure dropped to 229 largely because of screenings by metal detectors.

Torfino’s Metal-Tec is a small, easy-to-use wand-type detector that vibrates in the presence of metals.

The most effective stationary detectors utilize multiple zone sensors, can detect a wide variety of metal types, provide responses that are commensurate with the size and shape of the object, and are easy to maintain and use.

Walk-through detectors must also be able to handle the speed and volume of traffic while maintaining their metal sensing effectiveness. The scan display should also be easily readable from several feet away, and should clearly indicate the location and relative size of the object.

It's important to avoid using walk-through detectors that utilize infrared beams that trigger activation, as these are easily bypassed. Instead, opt for continuously active detectors and those that can easily be programmed to compensate for background metals in floors or surrounding areas.

Magic Wands

When a walk-through detector fails to clear a visitor, sometimes a portable detector is used. Handheld detectors also have wide applications in the field. A portable metal detector allows you to conduct a quick and effective inspection when a more thorough search may eventually be required, but is momentarily less practical.

The best of these magic wands are capable of locating a hype's needle (although protective gloves are still recommended). The ideal handheld scanner is lightweight, but rugged. The Model 1000 by Ranger Security, the Metal-Tec 1400 by Torfino Enterprises, the Super Scanner by Garrett Metal Detectors, the Seeker One by Mogul Co., and the Hand Wand by Control Screening are excellent examples.

CONTINUED: Search Engines «   Page 1 of 2   »

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