Operational Searches in Corrections
Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s tip applies to any officer who has the responsibility to conduct a search of an individual who is under arrest, being transported while in custody, or already in custody in a jail facility.
Anytime contraband or weapons find their way into the hands of an inmate, chances are someone did not conduct a proper search. Don’t ever consider this critical task something tedious or inconvenient.
The bottom line for this tip is this. You need to conduct a proper search each and every time. We are legally permitted to search a person who was just arrested. We may also search an individual who is lawfully in our custody whenever there is a transfer of custody, movement outside of their cell or a change in security level.
Why search individuals in our custody over and over? Two reasons: Number one, inmate and officer safety. Number two, contraband control.
Let’s start with actions out in the field. Let’s start with a suspect who was just arrested. Conduct a thorough pat-down search of the person immediately after handcuffing. Retrieve anything from the person that might be dangerous or considered contraband. Remember to never reach inside someone’s pockets without first asking about dangerous items and using a tactile search outside of the pockets.
What about your vehicle? The transport vehicle should have been searched at the start of your shift. Get in the habit of doing that. It should be searched before you place someone inside of it, and again when they are removed. Make sure nothing inappropriate gets inside the jail, the station or a temporary holding facility.
Once inside the jail, another pat-down is normally conducted by jail staff. This includes removal of ANY property found in the individual’s clothing or on their person. The inmate should be searched again after clothing exchange and before they go to a housing unit. If the inmate leaves the housing unit for court, medical, or any reason, conduct a thorough search when the inmate leaves and when they return.
Here’s an idea for you. Conduct random searches on inmates who have been moving about inside the secure perimeter or returning from programs including exercise, education, and work.
Anytime contraband or weapons find their way into the hands of an inmate, chances are someone did not conduct a proper search. Don’t ever consider this critical task something tedious or inconvenient. No matter how much you trust the officer who conducted the search before yours, act like it didn’t happen. Inmates are smart and resourceful. Be smarter and don’t give them the chance.
Search discipline is one of the best ways to prevent the flow of weapons and contraband into our jails and to ensure inmate and officer safety. And that is so critical. So be sure you conduct a proper search, every time.
And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.