AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department manual states frisking someone for weapons is to make sure officers can investigate without being worried about violence. It also says officers cannot put their hands under a suspect’s clothing unless they feel something that seems like it could be a weapon. But they can make suspects take off coats and jackets.
“Safety is the big issue, you want to ensure that they don’t have something on them that can hurt you or hurt them,” said Jerry Staton, who worked 25 years for APD. Now he’s a tactical trainer through his company Affordable Realistic Tactical Training. He says while people usually see searches performed on TV with suspect’s hands on the wall, rarely does that happen in real life.
He walked KXAN through the basics, and it begins with the hands because those are what could hurt the police officer. The officer makes contact and always tries to stay in control.
“Making sure there is nothing there. Total, cautious, and careful,” Staton said.
He says most weapons are hidden along the belt line and the place where most weapons slip through is the groin area, where some officers could get timid with their search.
“All of that comes in to place. It’s an imperfect world and we’re human beings and human beings are imperfect,” Staton said.
Information the officer received from dispatch, the suspects actions, and their cooperation influences what the officer will do on scene. Everything is situational and the goal is to limit mistakes because out of the thousands of arrests made many people have weapons on them.
Staton also says despite searches, some people keep their weapons hidden until they reach the Travis County Jail, where a more thorough search is done.