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Prevent Prisoner Assaults

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Quarterly Dated: (November 1996-January 1997) Pages: 33-36
R Frank
Date Published
4 pages
This article describes techniques for preventing prisoner assaults while they are in custody and during transport, with attention to patdowns, custodial searches, and handcuffing.
A "patdown" is a cursory frisk of a person who has been stopped. This limited search is conducted with a reasonable belief that the person may have a weapon or dangerous instrument on his/her person. A "custodial search" is a full-scale search of an arrested person; in addition to a full-scale search of the person, this search may also seek evidence of a crime or any other illegal materials. Patdowns should be preceded by instructions to the subject about what the officer is going to do and why, without asking the person's consent and with an assertive attitude. Whether conducting a patdown on the street or a full search incident to arrest, a number of principles should be followed. First, searches should be thorough; officers should be familiar with common hiding places for weapons, handcuff keys, and contraband and not overlook them or be hesitant to search there. Second, always handcuff prisoners with their hands behind their backs and with their palms facing away from each other. This prevents assaults and the manipulation of hidden handcuff keys and weapons. Third, prisoners should be positioned strategically in the squad car when being transported; in a one- officer car, a prisoner should be positioned behind the front passenger seat. Fourth, officers should be aware that the moment the handcuffs come out is often the most dangerous moment of the arrest, as the subject must decide whether to submit to the officer or attempt to escape by subduing the officer. The article also briefly discusses some new equipment being tested to search for concealed weapons and contraband.