Many of the people reading this page are professionals in security and law enforcement.
And sadly due to the lack of time people can spend training (due to budget cuts) a lot of valuable experience and information is being missed and not passed down.
So you are going to gain valuable information for those of you who have to search people as part of your duties.
Verbal Communication Is Key
If you want to make people angry, put your hands on them. Yes, this is a boundary, and if you cross it, people get mad (unless it is in a socially acceptable setting).
However, people understand that sometimes, for security reasons, they need to be searched.
So, your verbal communication is vital.
Generally speaking, you need to be clear what you are going to do, why you are doing and what legal authority you have to search them.
And this is before you put your hands onto them.
And you also need to be polite and respectful; this is key because even if you have the right to search someone, it is an intimate activity and this requires a degree of respect.
The Phrase That Gains Compliance
I have a phrase that I use, and it goes like this:
“Before I search you, do you have anything on you that could harm either yourself, myself or anyone else?”
That simple statement has turned up more concealed objects than you can imagine.
Another variation I use is this:
“Do you have anything on you that you shouldn’t have?”
Believe it or not, people hand things over if asked/ primed.
But that is not why you are asking, you are asking out of a safety reason. I have known people to have their hands cut by hidden weapons (more on this later) and as such you need to ask questions before searching them.
I am not going to give you a lesson in searching, but what I will say is this…take your time.
If you rush your search, you will miss objects, and the goal of the search is, of course, to find them. This might sound too obvious to be worthwhile pointing out, but a lot of searches are done as a checklist.
‘We have to do a quick search’ is often the phrase at security events’.
No…your search needs to be done correctly.
And I recommend searching in pairs.
One watches and the other searches, why? Because people move things around you while your attention is distracted as you search.
The second person has an overview and can watch the hands of the person.
Hidden Weapons And Objects
This is perhaps the most crucial part of this article, hidden weapons.
You will be surprised what people can hide on themselves, but the pockets are a danger zone for people searching.
I have known police officers to put their hands in pockets and be pricked by needles, knives, razor blades, nails and even broken glass!
All of which produced injuries with after effects.
In some cases, the articles were placed there deliberately, and in others, the suspect just forgot to tell the searcher. However, take this as a lesson, never put your hands into a pocket without first doing this.
1. Ask again if there is anything in the pockets.
2. Feel the outside of the pockets carefully, especially the bottom of the pocket.
3. Open the pocket wide at the top and visually inspect.
4. Finally, you move your hand slowly into the pocket.
Weapons, of course, can be anywhere such as belts, inside shoes, in hair…the list goes on.
The important thing is to be careful.
This post is not an ultimate guide to search tactics, it is a reminder for people in the field to be careful when searching, and we all need a reminder from time to time.
Take your time when searching because it can be more dangerous than you think