Always search thoroughly before placing a subject in your patrol car. Photo Dale Stockton
What went wrong? The specifics aren't known at this time and it would be inappropriate and insensitive to try and assess specific responsibility. However, there are some basic principles that should be reviewed and emphasized so that we don’t lose other officers in similar incidents.
Important Things to Remember
Never assume that a non-serious crime equates to a suspect not being dangerous. Sometimes the biggest danger comes from someone arrested for a very minor crime who may be thinking the officers are unaware of something much more serious. The bad guy knows, but the cop doesn’t. Bad situation. You have to assume that every arrest has the potential for turning violent. Remember: Complacency really does kill.
Also never assume another officer has done a thorough search, even if he or she is your partner. Make it a practice to always do a complete search before you place someone in your car. After all, they’re going to be sitting behind you and you want to be sure that they don’t have a weapon.
When you’re searching a suspect, always check as if you know there's something to be found. Your pat down will be much more effective if you’re thinking, "I know there's a gun here somewhere," and better yet, "Okay, he had one weapon, where's the next one?"
Handcuffing means both hands behind the back. Always. Handcuffing in front is almost never a good idea unless the cuffs are anchored to a waist chain. Make sure the hands are placed so that the backs of the hands are together and the palms are facing out. This makes it much harder to use a hidden key or pick to defeat the cuffs.
Make sure the keyholes of the cuffs are facing up (again, it makes it almost impossible for the suspect to try and access them in this position). Using hinged cuffs is always advised because they're much more secure. Regardless, double lock the cuffs by pushing on the pin that locks the ratcheting mechanism.
Seat belt them in. Yes, it’s a pain but it’s the right thing to do for multiple reasons. Not only is it the law in many places (you’re responsible for their safety while transporting), it also makes it more difficult to move around and access hidden weapons or contraband. Further, if a suspect is secured with a seat belt, you’re much more likely to notice the movement if they try to access something, like hidden contraband or a weapon.
Bottom line: Search thoroughly and secure effectively.