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Field Interviews and Pat Down Searches

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2000
8 pages
The International Association of Chiefs of Police's (IACP's) National Law Enforcement and Policy Center presents its Model Policy for Field Interviews and Pat-Down Searches, which includes a statement on the purpose of the policy, a policy statement, definitions, and recommended procedures, along with a related Concepts and Issues Paper.
The stated purpose of the policy is "to help officers determine when field interviews and pat-down searches are warranted and to establish the proper way to conduct them." The field interview is defined as "the brief detainment of an individual, whether on foot or in a vehicle, based on reasonable suspicion, for the purpose of determining the individual's identity and resolving the officer's suspicions concerning criminal activity." A pat-down search is defined as "a 'frisk' or external feeling of the outer garments of an individual for weapons only." "Reasonable suspicion," which is the basis for a field interview and pat-down search, is defined as "articulable facts that, within the totality of the circumstances, lead an officer to reasonably suspect that criminal activity has been, is being, or is about to be committed." Procedures for field interviews are outlined under two major topics: Justification for conducting a field interview and procedures for initiating a field interview Procedures for similar topics are outlined for pat-down searches. In addition, the procedure for reporting field interviews and pat-down searches is prescribed when the officer has no basis for making an arrest. The Concepts and Issues Paper contains an appendix that explains the "plain-touch" rule with reference to evidence detected during a pat-down search.