In an episode of “Leave it to Beaver,” June Cleaver once said she was not just “cleaning” the house – she was “deep cleaning” the house.
When you search for suspects do you go through the process of “room clearing,” or do you totally engage in an act of “deep room clearing?”
Danger exists in the case of a SWAT team whose members become entranced by the show and flow of the process of room clearing. This can create a situation where the search is quick, cursory, incomplete, but you can say, “We sure looked great!”
Patrol officers can also engage in searches which can too often be made even more dangerous when the search is perceived as routine. Such is the case of a search during a “false alarm” or “just another open door.”
Have a Proper Attitude Throughout
Officers (and teams) can possess the proper search attitude by reminding themselves throughout every search, “I know there is someone here,” until the suspect is in custody, or you have proved to yourself beyond a reasonable doubt, “I know there is no one here.”
A suspect should never be found in the last place you look — continue the search for additional suspects, weapons, contraband, and fruits of the crime.
When searching for suspects, officers should use the proper tools available, which include the proper firearm, mirrors, shields, night vision, or thermal and last (but not least) K-9s. All officers should learn how to use lights, shadows, reflections and all five senses to their advantage. For the sake of your families if not yourself, wear your vest every shift.
Hiders, who do not wish to be found, will fit into several categories.
1.) The No Hider
The no hider is the suspect caught unaware and unprepared. This often happens in the case of no-knock entries, when a team explodes unexpectedly into the criminal’s world before they can react.
The good thing about this is in many cases the suspect is so surprised they immediately comply. The bad thing about this is that in other cases the suspect is so surprised they wildly fight or flee.
You must be prepared for both eventualities.
Caution must be taken when total compliance is achieved so that you do not forget to:
1. Properly secure and thoroughly search the suspect.
2. Locate and secure other suspects and threats.
2.) The Shallow Hiders
The shallow hiders are suspects who are caught by surprise but still have an opportunity to hide quickly. These suspects are dangerous for the searching officers because most suspects hide in a position where they can see the officers before the suspects are detected. These suspects hide under beds, in closets, behind shower and window curtains, under desks, and in piles of dirty laundry.
From these positions an ambush can easily be accomplished.
3.) The Deep Hider
The deep hider is the suspect who has quickly found or in many cases prepared a position that can easily be over-looked. This is why a secondary search is imperative in all cases.
Old houses often have false walls and crawl spaces. There may be hatches that open up to a very small cellar or attic. The floor hatch can easily be covered by a family member, who tosses a rug over the hatch just before they tell you “I haven’t seen him in a week.”
The attic hatch can be missed — often because unless the act of looking up is ingrained in an officer by a trainer or a bad experience, officers do not have a tendency to look up.
Look-up, or look out!
Other deep-hider positions are spots that you assume no one could possibly fit into, such as cupboards, between a mattress and box spring, under a hot-water heater blanket, false ceilings, storage rooms under stairs, in vents, above pipes, etc. Some criminals are contortionists.
The positive thing about these places is criminals can hardly move much less attack you. Do not relax, however, because when they do attack it is sudden and explosive.
4.) The Mobile Hider
The mobile hider is on the move as soon as they detect your presence. They often have prepared an escape hatch for a quick exit. It is imperative that the perimeter be secured before the search has begun, especially in these cases.
Persons on the perimeter should set up to have some distance to react to a suspect who explodes from the target. They should have a good view to determine if the suspect is armed, as well an angle to defeat the flight.
There is also the mobile-hider whose movements are not designed to escape, but to out-flank and attack their pursuers. This person usually has some knowledge of military tactics and is extremely dangerous.
5.) The Undetected Hider
When you are conducting a thorough search you should have keyed access (or breaching capability) to all parts of the building and know how you stand legally on the search of outbuildings and vehicles. In some cases suspects are missed hiding in a detached garage, a vehicle parked on the property, trailer, boat, or dumpster.
Sometimes they are missed when officers discover a locked door and assume if it looks undisturbed the suspect must not be there.
Other times the suspect is just very-well hidden, has escaped, or stepped away prior to the search. If the suspect is not found, consider assigning a team to quietly stand by in the area, or even inside the target. When the suspect crawls out of hiding (or returns) he or she then can be taken into custody.
Never Be Surprised…
During a search, you must believe the suspect is around every dark corner, or under every pile of dirty laundry until you discover they are not. This is not paranoia — it is preparedness.
If you have a proper search attitude, the only time a suspect will ever surprise you is when they are not there.
Nothing can protect a suspect more completely than an unprepared mind.