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Searching the Suspect

You should avoid searching a suspect. Laws under the fourth amendment of the Constitutional Bill of Rights of the public protect the rights of suspects who are being searched. This section explains what you should and should not do.




You are not allowed to search someone in order to find evidence for making a citizen's arrest. Only search after an arrest has been made and only for weapons. You may only search them if you have reasonable belief that the suspect is carrying a concealed weapon.


You must also think about your personal safety in these situations. If you believe that someone is carrying a concealed weapon and you cannot arrest them because they have not committed a crime, let them be and call the police if you believe you or others are in danger. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Understand your employer's policy for searching for concealed weapons as well as understand the law. Private citizens do have the right to carry a weapon under the second amendment of the Constitutional Bill of Rights. They do not have the right to threaten or harass others though. In this case follow policy and contact the local law enforcement for back up in the case a threat is followed through.


When you see someone steal something you have been hired to protect, you may first arrest the person by telling them that they under arrest for theft. Then you may physically detain them for the police to search them. You should not give the suspect an opportunity to dispose of any items taken. You cannot search for these items or begin removing clothing or artifacts from the individual you have arrested. If you believe that the person is a threat to you and may be carrying a weapon, you may search them for the weapon.


If the suspect tells you they are going to shoot you, and you have every reason to believe they have a gun, then you have the right to search the suspect. If you have reasonable cause to believe you are in physical danger by detaining the suspect, you may search the suspect for weapons only. Consider your personal safety and the safety of others while doing this. Try to have others there while you search them for weapons. Do not offend the suspect or threaten the suspect. Maintain a fair distance from the suspect and be prepared to get away quickly or use force in the case that the suspect attempts to harm yourself or others.


Always follow your employer's policy for searching suspects. Your first step after an arrest is not to search the suspect, but to contact the local law enforcement. Search only if you believe there may be an immediate threat of danger and only after you have given the suspect the opportunity to turn any weapons over to you.


Remember: You may search for only one thing - WEAPONS (PC 846).

Method of "Frisk" - Searching for Weapons


A frisk is nothing more than a quick check to see if a suspect has a concealed weapon. This is a common and effective way of searching a suspect for weapons. This should only occur after the suspect is arrested. Do not attempt to use frisking as an attempt at intimidation or harassment, as this illegal and can result in the loss of your job, your guard registration, and you and your employer may possibly be sued.


To frisk a suspect, follow these steps:


  1. Stand behind the suspect

  2. Run your hands over the outside of the clothing

  3. Pat those areas where a weapon might be concealed (see illustration below)

  4. Remove anything that feels like a weapon









Do not remove any article that does not feel like a weapon. Anything you remove that is not a weapon must be given back as it is personal property. Personal property cannot be used in court against the suspect, and you should never comment about the item or show it to others. You may offend the suspect and ultimately give them reason to believe you are not properly doing your job. Again, you may be fired or sued for bias or harassment.




Always use discretion when touching a suspect of the opposite sex. Whenever possible have a member (security guard) of the same sex conduct the frisk, and always try to have witnesses to the frisk.

STAY ALERT! Don't relax after a frisk or take your eyes off the suspect after you have completed the frisk. They may still have a weapon you did not find!


Some of the places where a suspect might conceal a weapon are shown in the illustration below.

The frisk should be done quickly, and if possible, with another guard standing by. Practice the

frisk on a partner by having them conceal a small object. During a frisk, you may also discover

illegal items called contraband. The most common type of contraband is narcotics. If you discover

contraband while you are frisking for concealed weapons, leave it alone and tell the police when

they arrive. Your job is to prevent and protect, by detaining a suspect and searching them for

weapons, your job is not done; you should still remain alert and observe the suspect until they

are taken away by law enforcement.

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