Why does the arrest procedure include a strip search for alleged felons?
A question recently posted to Quora asks “why does the standard procedure of arrest for alleged felons involve a strip search/cavity search?” Tim Dees, a retired police officer, gave his response; add your own in the comments.
The introduction of contraband into detention facilities is a huge problem. Much of it comes in via corrupt staff, but inmates and visitors can also bring it in, often by concealing the materials in body cavities.
The quantity and shape of things people can conceal in body cavities is staggering. Witness this x-ray of an inmate who kept setting off metal detectors:
I think I’d have tried to file down the hammer and sights first, at least.
Do a Google Image search, and you’ll also find x-rays showing concealed knives, cell phones, drugs, and handcuff keys, usually concealed in rectal or vaginal cavities.
There is a distinction between a strip search and a body cavity search. A strip search is one performed with the subject nude. They are required to show the person doing the search all externally visible aspects of their body, to include the areas under the breasts, penis, and scrotum, and the areas between their buttocks. Women may be required to squat and cough to expel any objects concealed in their vaginas. This is a humiliating experience, but one necessary for institutional security.
A body cavity search is a medical procedure, usually performed in a hospital. It is considerably more invasive and has the potential to cause injury. If objects need to be removed, surgery may be required, and anesthesia is often necessary. X-rays are typically done first to determine if there are any objects needing retrieval, and what their position is.
My former law enforcement employer ran a city jail for about the first nine years I was a cop, and arresting officers had to strip-search their own prisoners at booking if there were felony charges. I personally recovered narcotics in one case and a handcuff key in another. Both were concealed in the prisoner’s underwear.