509 – Transporting Detainees

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I. Purpose

This policy provides directives on transporting persons taken into custody prior to their booking or admission into a detention or medical facility. These directives provide for the safety and security of the detainee, the transporting personnel, and the public.

II. Policy

Public safety is the top priority of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).

With that in mind, employees are responsible for the care, custody, and control of persons they have detained. Employees must ensure any detainees being transported arrive safely at their destination.

III. Transport Procedures

A. Search

1. Before placing a detainee in a vehicle, an employee must:

a. Conduct a pat down search of the detainee, at the location of detainment, for weapons or contraband prior to placing the detainee in a vehicle; and

b. Search the vehicle prior to placing the detainee in the vehicle.

2. A pat down search for weapons or contraband must be done each time a different employee takes control of the detainee. Never assume someone else has searched a detainee.

3. Employees must search the vehicle again after transport to check if any items were left behind by the detainee.

4. A search should be conducted by an employee of the same sex if possible.

5. Every search must be performed in accordance with Policy #507 – Search Procedures.

6. Strip searches and body-cavity searches may not be performed except in accordance with Policy #507 – Search Procedures.

B. Transport Vehicles

Employees transporting a detainee must use a patrol vehicle or other vehicle authorized for transport use by the bureau or assignment.

1. Detainees must be sitting upright and seat-belted.

2. Detainees must be handcuffed behind their backs, with handcuffs double locked to prevent injury and escape, unless there is a justifiable reason to handcuff the detainee in front.

NOTE: For example, it may be justifiable to handcuff a detainee in front if the detainee is injured and placement of the detainee’s hands behind his or her back appears to cause an undue physical burden on the detainee.

3. Detainees should be placed in the backseat of the vehicle, unless otherwise authorized by a bureau’s standard operating procedures (SOP).

4. If there are multiple employees and the vehicle does not have a security divider between the front and rear seats, one employee may sit in the backseat beside the detainee with his or her weapon facing away from the detainee.

5. The sliding window to the security divider should remain closed.

C. Injured or Disabled Detainees

1. An employee may transport a detainee without a restraining device if:

a. The detainee is handicapped in a manner which makes the use of restraining devices impractical or unsafe, and

b. The detainee is not exhibiting a potential for violence or escape.

NOTE: A seatbelt must still be worn. If the detainee cannot be seat-belted due to an injury, the detainee should be transported by EMS or employees should consider taking another disposition, such as filing a to-be warrant.

2. Emergency medical services (EMS) must be notified if a detainee requires medical attention.

3. An employee must accompany and remain with a detainee who is taken to the hospital by EMS until:

a. The employee is relieved by another employee, or

b. Some other disposition is taken, such as a to-be warrant will be filed.

c. Detainees transported to a medical facility for an emergency detention order may be left at the facility once the facility advises that the detainee has been admitted into the facility.

4. If possible, an employee should not arrest an injured subject. In this case, an employee should gather the necessary information and file a to-be warrant.

IV. Restraining Devices

Employees may use additional restraining devices if a detainee becomes violent or poses an escape risk that cannot reasonably be contained with handcuffs alone.

A. Additional restraining devices may include:

1. Leg irons,

2. Waist chains,

3. Flex-cuffs, or

4. Hobble restraints.

NOTE: A hobble restraint may only be used to prevent a detainee from kicking.

B. Connecting hand and leg restraints of a restrained subject (i.e., hog-tying) is prohibited. See Policy #501 – Response to Resistance.

V. Supervision of Detainees

A. Employees must not allow a detainee to remain unattended or out of view.

B. Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) and in-car video must be recording whenever a detainee is being transported, see Policy #618 – Body-Worn Cameras.

VI. Dispatch Notifications

A. When transporting a detainee, an employee must notify dispatch of:

1. The number of detainees,

2. The sex of the detainee,

3. Where the detainee is being transported,

4. Starting mileage of the transport vehicle, and

5. Ending mileage upon completion of the transport.

B. If an arrested detainee is being violent, advise dispatch to notify the Joint Processing Center (JPC).

VII. Primary Responsibility

A. When an employee is transporting a detainee, this becomes the employee’s primary responsibility.

B. An employee transporting a detainee will not respond to a call for service or initiate any other law enforcement activity until the transport is complete, unless:

1. The employee has supervisor approval, and

2. The employee observes a person in danger of imminent serious bodily injury or death, and immediate action is reasonably believed necessary, or

3. An “Assist the Officer” call for service is broadcast and the employee is within a reasonable proximity.

VIII. Transporting Groups

If three or more detainees need to be transported, advise a supervisor. The supervisor may contact the Transportation Division.

The Transportation Division will respond in accordance with their SOP.

IX. Arrival at JPC

Certain items may not be brought into JPC by anyone, including employees.

A. Firearms are prohibited inside of JPC.

1. Firearms should be secured in a vehicle or one of the available lockers before entering the intake door of JPC.

2. This must be completed prior to removing a detainee from the vehicle.

B. BWCs must stop recording at the door of JPC.

NOTE: BWCs are prohibited from recording inside of JPC except under special circumstances. See Body-Worn Cameras. JPC has its own camera system.

C. Inside of the intake area of JPC, restraints may be removed from a detainee.

D. Escort the detainee to the search wall to be searched.

E. Complete any necessary paperwork for the booking process.

F. Complete the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) process.

NOTE: JPC staff will complete the AFIS process for inmates booked by HCSO deputies. However, deputies may also complete this process themselves.

G. Complete the District Attorney Intake Management System (D.I.M.S.) form.

H. Provide the required booking forms to the employee at the intake desk.

I. Advise the intake employee of any special concerns with the detainee, such as medical or mental health issues, or security risks presented by the detainee. This information is used solely for classification purposes and to provide any necessary treatment.

NOTE: Medical history is considered confidential information. Employees are reminded that the mishandling of confidential information is prohibited. See Policy #303 – Conduct Prohibited and Criminal Justice Command SOP #213 – Inmate Health Records / Confidentiality.

J. Once the intake employee accepts custody of the detainee, the employee has transferred custody of the detainee to JPC.

NOTE: Any transfer of custody of a detainee must be documented in a report.

X. Outlying Jails

The HCSO operates outlying jails which are used for the temporary detention of arrested detainees prior to transport to JPC.

A. Firearms must not be brought into any secured area of an outlying jail, e.g., holding cells.

B. Detainees must remain restrained until they are placed in a holding cell, however, restraints may be removed if it is required to complete the intake process, such as for AFIS.

C. Detainees must be searched upon arrival at the outlying jail and prior to being placed into a holding cell.

D. The employee assigned to conduct intake at the outlying jail is responsible for verifying any detainees brought to the outlying jail are eligible for booking.

E. The intake employee may deny booking of a detainee if a detainee is determined not eligible for booking into an outlying jail facility according to this policy and the Department Manual.

1. Arrested detainees who are injured, disabled, appear to have medical or mental health issues, or are under the care of a physician may not be transported to an outlying jail and must be taken directly to JPC in order to be examined by the medical staff on-duty.

NOTE: Medical history is considered confidential information. Employees are reminded that the mishandling of confidential information is prohibited. See Policy #303 – Conduct Prohibited and Criminal Justice Command SOP #213 – Inmate Health Records / Confidentiality.

2. Arrested detainees who are actively violent and attempting to escape must be taken directly to JPC.

3. If an arrested detainee cannot be booked into an outlying jail for any other reason, they must be taken to JPC.

F. If a detainee is accepted for booking into an outlying jail, an employee must complete the same forms as required for intake at JPC.

G. Outlying jails must operate consistent with the same standards as JPC.

1. Male, female, and juvenile detainees must be kept separate.

2. In case of a fire, emergency evacuation procedures will be conducted according to the HCSO’s fire suppression and escape plan.

XI. Escaped Detainee

An employee must immediately notify dispatch and an on-duty supervisor if a detainee escapes.

A. Provide dispatch with as much identifying information as possible, such as:

1. Height and weight,

2. Sex, age, race, and hair color,

3. Name and clothing description,

4. Direction of travel,

5. Possible weapons the detainee may have in their possession,

6. The offense for which the detainee is wanted, and

7. Any special considerations such as medical or mental health concerns.

B. A supervisor must:

1. Respond to the scene of the escape,

2. Coordinate search efforts for the escapee, and

3. Notify Watch Command and the Criminal Warrants Division.

C. An incident report must be completed and should explain how the escape occurred, as well as any other pertinent information.

XII. Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

July 22, 2021

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