6.210 - Strip Searches

Effective Date: 11/19/2007

POLICY

A sworn officer may strip search a person if the requirements of RCW 10.79 have been met. A sergeant shall authorize the strip search based on specific facts constituting reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the search was necessary.

Nothing in this section is intended to preclude officers from seizing and holding as evidence the clothing of a suspect whenever that clothing is reasonably believed to constitute evidence of a crime.

I. Definitions

A. A "strip search" is defined by the RCW as having a person remove or arrange some or all of their clothing so as to permit an inspection of the genitals, buttocks, anus, or undergarments of the person or breasts of a female.

II. Requirements

A. The person to be strip searched must be in custody at a precinct or jail holding facility. A Captain may adopt Section policies that authorize their personnel to conduct strip searches at locations other than precinct or jail holding facilities.

B. RCW 10.79.130 states that no person shall be strip searched without a warrant unless:

1. There is a reasonable suspicion to believe that a strip search is necessary to discover weapons, criminal evidence, contraband, or any other thing concealed on the body of the person to be searched that constitutes a threat to the security of a holding, detention, or local correctional facility;

2. There is probable cause to believe that a strip search is necessary to discover other criminal evidence concealed on the body of the person to be searched, but not constituting a threat to facility security; or

3. There is a reasonable suspicion to believe that a strip search is necessary to discover a health condition requiring immediate medical attention.

4. For this section a reasonable suspicion is deemed to be present when the person to be searched has been arrested for:

a. A violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030(54);

b. An offense involving escape, burglary, or the use of a deadly weapon; or

c. An offense involving possession of a drug or controlled substance under RCW Chapter 69.41, 69.50, or 69.52.

C. A person who has not been arrested for an offense as defined in the previous subsection may be strip searched upon determination of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The determination of whether reasonable suspicion or probable cause exists to conduct a strip search shall be made only after less-intrusive means have been used and shall be based on the consideration of all information and circumstances known to the sergeant authorizing the strip search, including, but not limited to, the following factors:

1. The nature of the offense for which the person to be searched was arrested.

2. The prior criminal record of the person to be searched.

3. Physically violent behavior of the person to be searched, during or after the arrest.

D. All of the factors that led to the determination of the sergeant to authorize the strip search shall be articulated on the General Offense Report and the Strip Search Record (form 17.7).

III. Procedures

A. A sergeant must screen the circumstances of the arrest and determine if the legal criteria for a strip search has been met prior to giving authorization for the search.

B. Less-intrusive means, such as pat-downs, metal detectors (where available) and clothing searches will be performed prior to the strip search.

C. Prior to conducting the strip search the officer and sergeant will explain to the subject why they are being strip searched and give the person the opportunity to voluntarily produce the suspected item. The person will be allowed to voluntarily produce the item only if the officer and sergeant believe that the item can be produced without compromising officer safety or risking destruction of evidence.

D. The strip search must be conducted and witnessed by officers of the same sex as the person to be searched.

E. The sergeant who has authorized the search will witness the strip search unless the sergeant is a different sex as the person being searched, in which case the sergeant will assign another officer of the appropriate sex to witness the search. The authorizing sergeant must remain at the location where the strip search is to take place.

F. The search will be done in private, where the search will not be viewed by anyone other than the officer conducting the strip search and the witness officer. The steps taken to assure the privacy of the strip search will be documented on the Strip Search Record (form 17.7).

G. Complete a Strip Search Record (form 17.7) with the following information:

1. The offense(s) for which the person was arrested.

2. The specific facts constituting reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the search was necessary.

3. The name and serial number of the sergeant authorizing the search.

4. The name and serial number of the officer conducting the search.

5. The name(s) of all other persons present during the search.

6. The time, date, and place of the search.

7. Any weapons, evidence, contraband, property, or health condition discovered as the result of the search.

H. The authorizing sergeant must review and approve the Strip Search Record (form 17.7) along with the General Offense Report.