Searching the Suspect

You should avoid searching a suspect. Laws protect the rights of suspects who are being searched. This section explains what you should and should not do.

You are not allowed to search someone in order to find evidence for making a citizen’s arrest.

When you see someone steal something you have been hired to protect, you may first detain the person by telling him/her that they are under arrest for theft. Then you may physically detain the person for the police to search. You should not give the suspect an opportunity to dispose of any items taken.

If you have reasonable cause to believe you are in physical danger by detaining the suspect, you may search the individual for weapons.

REMEMBER: You may search for only one thing – WEAPONS (Penal Code §846).

Method of “Frisk” Searching For Weapons

A frisk is nothing more than a quick check to see if a suspect has a concealed weapon. This should occur after the suspect is arrested. To frisk a suspect, follow these steps:

  1. Stand behind the suspect
  2. Run your hands over the outside of their clothing
  3. Pat those areas where a weapon might be concealed
  4. Remove anything that feels like a weapon


Caution: Do not remove any article that does not feel like a weapon.

IMPORTANT: Always use discretion when touching a suspect. When ever possible have a security guard/proprietary private security officer of the same sex conduct the frisk, and always try to have witnesses to the frisk. STAY ALERT! Don’t relax after a frisk or take your eyes off the suspect after you have completed the frisk. They may still have a weapon you did not find!

The frisk should be done quickly, and if possible, with another security guard/proprietary private security officer standing by. Practice the frisk on a partner by having him/her conceal a small object. During a frisk, you may also discover illegal items called contraband. The most common type of contraband is narcotics. If you discover contraband while you are frisking for concealed weapons, leave it alone and tell the police when they arrive.