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.

Author

Dean Scoville
Dean Scoville

Associate Editor

Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

View Bio

Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

View Bio
0 Comments