Following the tragic murder of yet another member of the emergency services family this morning, I have noticed some sections of the mainstream media are talking about a subject that the majority of them have zero experience of; searching a prisoner.
This article is intended primarily for our readers who have no experience of serving in the police. It is intended to help the general public understand more about when and how officers search a prisoner.
I served for ten years in the Met (five years as a regular officer and five years as a Special), and I spent all of my time on a 999 response team in east London.
I retired from the Job five years ago, so I am sure that some of the policies and procedures which I once knew have now changed.
Whilst we do not know any of the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of our colleague, I felt compelled to write this piece to counter the misinformation that is being peddled by some sections of the mainstream media.
For example, I have just heard one well-known journalist say that the weapon ‘ought to have been found’. This statement is incredibly reckless in terms of its complete lack of understanding concerning how and when searches are carried out.
The mainstream media are often quick to pass judgement on incidents and circumstances about which they have zero first-hand experience.
I must stress that this article is entirely aside from what happened in the early hours of this morning.
We, here at emergency services news, know only that which has been released publically by the Met following the tragic death of one of their officers.
When someone is arrested, then it is often the case that the prisoner is searched before they are placed into the back of a police van or, on rare occasions, the back of a police car.
But if somebody is concealing something in or around an intimate area of their body, then a cursory search will not always find whatever it is that the prisoner is hell-bent on trying to hide.
For example, if a prisoner has strapped an object to the inside of their leg, then a cursory search on the street will not always find what it is that has been hidden.
Or, if someone has stuffed something down the front or rear of their pants, then a standard search that is carried out in the street will not always locate the object that has been hidden.
It should also be pointed out that the level of the search carried out by officers will often depend upon the offence(s) for which the detained person has been arrested.
If there has been information that someone has a weapon on them, then a more thorough search will often be carried out.
But if, for example, someone has been arrested for a relatively minor offence such as a Section 5 public order offence, or for shoplifting, then a cursory search of external pockets and areas is often all that is needed.
I must point out again, that the Met has not released the details or circumstances of the events which led up to the person who shot the officer this morning being arrested.
The general public should also be made aware of the fact that more intimate searches are not allowed to be carried out on the street.
More intimate searches have to take place back at the police station and not in the back of a van or on the street. Once in custody, only a supervisor can authorise a strip search. News has just come in that it was a police sergeant who was murdered.
The mainstream media have been quick to point out about the fact that a prisoner has been “allowed” to take a weapon into a police station.
But, as is always the case, there is so much more to it than that.
The only way to really know if someone has something on them which is well hidden is to carry out a full-body strip search.
And these strip searches can only be done back at the police station and in a cell. Thus, it is all too easy for someone to hide an object on them which they do not want to be found.
During my time in the Met, I remember prisoners smuggling things into custody which had been hidden in or on parts of their body which you would never think could conceal anything other than their own body parts.
Strip searches are not automatically authorised. There has to be a reason for a strip search to be carried out before one is undertaken.
We must wait for the investigation to run its course before we start to make assumptions based upon the tragic circumstances which led to the murder of one of our colleagues who was just doing the job that he was paid to do.
As ever, the thoughts of everyone here at Emergency Services News are with the officers family, friends and colleagues. May this brave officer rest in peace.
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