When Police officers talk about danger on the street, we often talk about the risks of the car stop. Like a haunted house on wheels, we never really know what horrors may be lurking inside the vehicle. Starting with the driver and his companions, we have to determine many things. First, who is the driver and does he/she have a criminal record. Second, is the driver lost or confused? And third, do the individuals in the car pose a threat? The officer also needs to determine if there is a possibility that hidden in the car are weapons, narcotics, or other illegal contraband.
Officers lean heavily on the law of Plainview Seizure. If we see contraband or weapons in the open, then we can seize those items. The criminals, of course, are privy to this law and go to great lengths to deceive us, which creates an added threat. Now, add to the equation that criminals are using cutting edge technology to deceive us with their "traps", and we have a dangerous situation. Drug dealers and gangbangers have plenty of money to spend on their traps, which they hide very well. Many of their traps are equipped with intricate electrical components.
These traps are often hidden where airbags or dashboard spaces should be. Criminals often use an electromagnetic switch to operate a door where illegal paraphernalia is stored. Opening the door is like cracking a safe. It could be hitting a series of switches in a special order to open the door, or activating the vehicle's headlights in combination with the windshield wipers and the door opens. The ordeal is very taxing and time consuming.
A response to help our mission in defeating these traps should include the use of a quality thermal imager (TI). A TI can help detect changes in a vehicle's structure, including where it may have been altered, cut or welded. Once an object's molecular structure is changed, the temperature will be different. This is something the human eye cannot detect. However, a TI excels at this task by seeing only thermal energy. Using a TI adds to our detection arsenal when deception is present.
Here are some basic tactics for using a TI during a vehicle search:
- Never sweep or search the vehicle without suspects secured and you have plenty of back up to keep you safe while you search.
- Turn off colorization on the TI, if you have it. Colorization can confuse your thermal picture.
- Create temperature extremes for the vehicle, such as turning on the heat or A/C. A TI detects objects that emit heat - hotter objects show as white, cooler objects show as black, and objects between these temperatures are displayed in shades of gray.
- The picture you receive from a TI may show an anomaly or an object that appears misshapen. For instance, you may not always get a perfect looking gun. Remember, a TI will spot thermal irregularities and interactions that do not appear normal. These irregularities can be clues that are worth investigating further.
- Always use a TI to search around the outside of the vehicle. Suspects may have tossed their goods out the window.