Course Content
H-CUFF® (Hands-On Control Using Functional Force)
About Lesson

Searching Tips

a) Making Searching Easier

Searching needs to be taught hand-in-hand with handcuffing as the two activities are intertwined at most times (there is never a downside to over-searching).

It should be abundantly clear that the waistband should be searched immediately after putting the handcuffs on because you are basically placing his hands within reach of something that could be hidden at this location like a firearm, knife, contraband, etc.

PRO TIP: Pulling the lower portion of his jacket or shirt over the handcuff chain and up his back will expose the back of his waistband where contraband is commonly concealed (searching the waistband does not eliminate the need for a search of the entire body for obvious reasons).

Not advising the next person in charge of the prisoner, or failing to notify the jail about searching deficiencies due to circumstances (like a lack of same-gender searchers), can lead to serious consequences when weapons are accessed, post-custody overdoses occur, or critical evidence is not recovered in the arrestee’s actual possession.

If you are receiving an arrestee, no one should mind if you conduct your own search, after all it’s your reputation on the line (and someone else’s safety).

PRO TIP: It is advisable to remove extra clothing like coats before handcuffing if possible (drape them over the arrestee after they have been searched); this will allow for easier application of the handcuff and allow body searches to be done more efficiently.

Certainly, more detailed clothing searches can be done when the clothing is not worn by the prisoner (seek Departmental policy regarding strip searches on the street and when in custody).

If detailed searches are done on the street, get into the privacy of an alcove; in cold wet weather, the extra searched clothing like coats can be subsequently draped over the arrestee’s shoulders to keep them warm and dry.

Street people are notorious for wearing many layers of foul-smelling dirty clothing (glove up and dig deep, taking care not to prick yourself with a needle or get cut with other sharp objects hidden within the folds and pockets of the worn baggage.

Needlestick injuries can result from even a light pat down; the anti-AIDS drug cocktail can leave you with many hours of reflective thought on the “porcelain throne” for a solid month (from personal experience, it was “Montezuma’s Revenge” x 10!).

This is where the use of wands can help find metallic weapons in particular (softer items like drugs still must be sensed by opening pockets and shining a flashlight into the darkened recesses or otherwise be felt manually).

Sometimes addicts will tell you of hidden needles (or even dope) when asked (if they can remember), so at least give them a chance to lie to you.

Arrestees who have proven to be combative are difficult to search in the standing position, so it is likely best to search them while they are still on the ground by rolling them over, side to side (this takes away their ability to move around using their legs, or to assault you).

The search of the waistband can be facilitated by pulling the lower part of their upper clothing up and across the handcuff chain as to provide unobstructed access to this area while protecting your hand from scratching fingers.

PRO TIP: A common trick by arrestees to thwart this portion of a search is to feign arm inflexibility as to cause their hands to strongly press against the small of the back, thereby shielding contraband.

The more they press and complain of pain due to the inflexibility, the more determined you should be to search that area.

Others will complain of some discomfort and move around in hopes of throwing you off your search pattern.

Be suspicious of unusual behaviour and look for the true meaning behind his actions.

PRO TIP: For standing arrestees, be sure to keep hold of one part of his body (like his elbow, not the chain) while you have him spread his feet and turn his feet outwards to keep him in a position of weakness for attacking you or for running away.

Be certain to position yourself to his blindside and certainly stay out of the “donkey kick” zone when loading him into an elevated position, like the back of the wagon.

If he escapes your custody and hurts himself by falling down while in handcuffs (or he gets hit by a bus), you will be on the hook for his injuries (and just as he was turning his life around).

Be sure to call in a police officer of the same sex when doing detailed searches (or note deficiencies in the arrest form).

Cross-sex cursory searches may be necessary but be vey careful in this “#metoo” age; body cam activation can certainly dissuade people from making false allegations.

Protect yourself against such unwarranted accusations by letting same-sex searchers undertake these searches.

No one can really take umbrage against at least doing a visual search of the rear waistband after the handcuffs have been applied.

PRO TIP: If they have not been thoroughly searched, then watch them carefully for any indications that they are trying to retrieve hidden contraband

Be systematic (i.e., head to toe).

Always use the same search pattern.

Be thorough.

Find something? Look for more!

Pat and press lightly, don’t slide quickly and squeeze hard (you will likely find sharps).

Don’t jam your hands into pockets—use a flashlight and enter slowly.

Pat down his crotch!

Feel the waistband area under the handcuffed hands, not just around them.

Remove excessive clothing before cuffing if possible.

Look for slits in clothing folds, pouches, etc.

Control your suspect’s movements, so his squirming doesn’t threaten your search or safety.

Welcome multiple searches.

Don’t just go through the motions–think like a crook and look for concealed items.

Don’t get sidetracked—stay focused.

Make notes of exactly where items were found.

Note deficiencies of search on the arrest form (i.e., ‘male-on-female’ searches).