Care, Custody, & Control

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: Policy SUBJECT: Care, Custody, & Control NUMBER: OPER-339.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 6/11/2017
NMLEA STANDARDS: OPR.08.01 - OPR.08.05 & OPR.09.01 LAST MODIFIED: 5/11/2017 LAST REVIEW: 5/11/2017


Deputies have a duty to protect persons who are in their custody. To maximize citizen, deputy, and prisoner safety, this policy provides operating procedures for the care, custody, and control of persons who have been detained or arrested.


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office that the care, custody, and control of a prisoner are the responsibility of the arresting deputy. This responsibility remains in effect until the prisoner is turned over to another authority. Deputies will take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their prisoners.


The following definitions will apply for the purposes of this policy:

  • Contraband – Any item that is illegal to possess or any item which would pose a safety concern if possessed by a prisoner.

  • Prisoner – Used generically in this policy to include any person who is arrested or detained.



At the beginning of a shift, and anytime another person has had access to their vehicle, deputies will conduct an inspection of the prisoner compartment for weapons or contraband and to ensure security (screen, window locks, door handles, etc.). During a transport, no police equipment will be stored where a prisoner has access.

Immediately after a person has been delivered to the destination point, the vehicle will be searched again. Should any contraband be located inside the vehicle, the item will be collected and a proper investigation completed and documented in an incident report. Any property that does not amount to contraband will be promptly returned to the person.


All prisoners will be searched before being placed in a patrol vehicle and each time they come into a deputy's custody. All prisoners received from another deputy or agency will be searched, even if it has been stated that a search was already conducted.

Purses, bags, and other containers in the possession of a prisoner will be separated from the prisoner and searched (when lawful).

Any subject being transported for a mental evaluation by a deputy will be thoroughly searched for weapons and handcuffed behind his or her back unless otherwise approved by this policy.

Strip searches or body cavity searches will only be conducted pursuant to a search warrant. The prisoner will be transported to an appropriate medical facility where the search warrant will be executed by medical personnel. All deputies present to witness the search will be of the same gender as the prisoner.

Subjects being detained but not under arrest will be patted down for weapons before being placed into a vehicle. The deputy may use discretion in whether or not to handcuff the subject but safety should be the primary consideration.

PRISONER RESTRAINT (OPR.08.01 (a, c, & d) & OPR.09.01)

The Sheriff’s Office does not consider un-resisted handcuffing a reportable use of force. However, it is “well established” that overly tight handcuffing can constitute excessive force. Handcuffs used as a force tool (e.g., applying leverage to a handcuffed suspect) is considered a reportable use of force.

Deputies need to know the risk factors associated with improperly applied handcuffs. When applying restraints, deputies should never use greater force than is reasonably necessary to effect the seizure. Handcuffs should not be applied any longer than is needed to conduct a lawful detention and/or arrest.

The Sheriff’s Office issues handcuffs and other restraint devices for use. Deputies may purchase their own handcuffs as long as they are in compliance with current NIJ standards.

For most situations, prisoners will be handcuffed with their hands behind their back and the handcuffs double locked to avoid accidental tightening. These provisions will be documented in the incident report when a full arrest is made.

When safe to do so, deputies may use two sets of handcuffs for larger prisoners to secure their hands behind their back and help prevent injury. The use of a restraint belt and handcuffs in the arrest of elderly, handicapped, or disabled prisoners, or those with a known injury (including pre-existing), may be used to restrain their hands in the front.

The care of prisoners who are pregnant requires additional precautions to ensure the protection of the unborn child. The following steps will be followed when dealing with a prisoner who is known to be pregnant:

  • At no time will leg shackles, hobbles, or restraint belts be used.
  • Handcuffs will only be placed in front of the prisoner.
  • When escorting a handcuffed pregnant prisoner, deputies will maintain physical control to minimize the risk of falling.

Handcuffs will be applied so that the prisoner cannot get out of the handcuffs, but not so tight as to cause injury or pain beyond the normal level of discomfort associated with being properly restrained. Complaints of handcuff pain will be promptly checked for proper tightness and corrected if necessary and when safe to do so.

Deputies will notify a supervisor when an injury occurs (or may have occurred) due to a restraint device. Supervisors will ensure that any witnesses are interviewed, photos are taken, and medical treatment sought as necessary.

Prisoners will remain handcuffed until at the location or facility which offers an appropriate level of security.

At no time will a deputy:

  • Restrain a prisoner by binding the ankles to the wrists behind the back (“hog-tied”).
  • Handcuff a prisoner to any part of a vehicle (this does not apply to nylon hobble straps being attached to the vehicle).
  • Handcuff prisoners together.

Temporary nylon or plastic restraints may to be used as a short-term restraint device in a mass arrest situation. These should be applied and removed with care to avoid unintentional injury to the prisoner and deputy.

The Sheriff’s Office issues nylon hobble restraints to maintain control of aggressive prisoners during transport and prevent doors and windows from being kicked. Deputies who have been trained on the proper application and use of the hobble strap may use it at their discretion and according to training. At no time will the hobble strap protrude from outside the vehicle.

The Sheriff’s Office issues spit hoods which may be used by deputies when needed. Spit hoods will not be used on prisoners who are experiencing a medical condition or have a significant untreated head/facial injury. Deputies will ensure that the spit hood does not restrict air flow to the prisoner. Prisoners in spit hoods will be adequately monitored for normal breathing.


Prisoners will be transported in the rear seat only, in a seated position, and secured with a seat belt. An exception to the seat belt requirement would include a medical limitation of the prisoner or when circumstances exist that would present a danger to the deputy or prisoner. Prisoners will be adequately monitored for the duration of the transport.

Pursuant to the Sheriff’s Office In-Car Video Policy, the in-car camera, to include the rear camera (when equipped), will be activated for all prisoner transports.

Co-conspirators (who must be kept separate for interrogation purposes) as well as males and females may only be transported in the same vehicle with a supervisor’s approval:

The following prisoners will not be transported together in the same vehicle:

  • Juveniles and adults; and
  • Multiple combative prisoners.

Deputies transporting prisoners should not stop to take enforcement action, pursue a violator, or become involved in any other duty-related activity, except when the risk to other persons outweighs the risk to the prisoner.

In the rare but needed circumstance that a prisoner must be transported in a non-screened vehicle, the prisoner will be seated in the back seat on the passenger side and a second deputy will sit as a guard in the rear seat on the driver’s side. At no time will a deputy transport a prisoner in a non-screened vehicle without the assistance from a second deputy.


Searches of prisoners of the opposite gender beyond an initial pat down for weapons or dangerous objects should be conducted by a deputy of the same gender when available and practical. When not available or practical, the search should be recorded by an in-car camera when possible.

Deputies will notify the San Juan County Communications Authority when a prisoner of the opposite gender is transported. This notification will include the vehicle’s mileage and each corresponding location.


The mechanical restraint of juveniles under the age of 13 will be on a case-by-case basis with careful consideration given to the juvenile’s risk level and other safety factors. Handcuffs may be used to prevent a juvenile from hurting him or herself, for the protection of others, the protection of property, and the prevention of escapes.

Deputies will notify the San Juan County Communications Authority when a juvenile of either gender is transported. This notification will include the vehicle’s mileage and each corresponding location.

Deputies should refer to the Sheriff’s Office Juveniles Policy for detailed information regarding the arrest or detention of a juvenile.

MEDICAL ISSUES (OPR.08.04 (a – e))

Medical assistance will be rendered and/or obtained for any prisoner who has suffered an injury. Depending on the extent of the injury, this assistance may include calling EMS or notifying jail personnel upon arrival. Medical assistance performed by deputies should be to the extent trained and equipped. Any injury or sickness requiring medical care will be relayed to the deputy’s supervisor and documented in an incident report.

Complaints of injury or illness (even when not visible) will be handled appropriately. Deputies should err on the side of caution when deciding whether to contact EMS for assistance at the scene or passing along the information to the jail.

EMS should be immediately called to the scene for prisoners exhibiting signs of distress such as labored breathing, incoherency, unconsciousness, extremely agitated state, etc.

If a prisoner is transported by EMS, the deputy will collaborate with medical personnel to determine the need for restraints and if the deputy should ride with the ambulance or follow in a patrol vehicle.

If a prisoner must be admitted to the hospital, the deputy will contact their supervisor to determine whether the prisoner can be released from custody. If a prisoner cannot be released, notifications will be made through the chain of command to arrange for the prisoner to be guarded.

Deputies will cooperate with medical personnel in regards to the health and safety of a prisoner to include providing information which might be needed for proper treatment. If an order or directive from medical personnel would cause the deputy to violate a Sheriff’s Office policy, or is not in the best interest of citizen or deputy safety, the deputy will contact their supervisor for guidance.

Deputies who transport a prisoner with a known communicable disease should take precautions to prevent exposure to blood or bodily fluids. Any deputy who has transported a prisoner with a known airborne communicable disease (e.g., tuberculosis) will complete an exposure report.

Any wheelchairs, crutches, and/or prosthetic devices, should be transported with, but not in the possession of, the prisoner unless some type of unreasonable situation exists that would make the transport impossible or create a higher danger to the prisoner. Medication may be transported with, but never in the possession of, the prisoner.


Prisoners brought into a Sheriff’s Office facility for an interview or other investigative need will be escorted at all times and adequately monitored. At no time will a prisoner be in a position that allows for physical or visual contact with any secure computer or any paperwork that contains CJI/CHRI information.

Deputies will use sound judgement with the safety of everyone in mind when deciding to remove restraints for an interview or interrogation.


All firearms, visible and concealed, as well as all ammunition sources, batons, and knives will be secured in a lock box or in the deputy’s vehicle before entering any detention facility. This prohibition may be waived during an emergency situation with prior approval from both a Sheriff’s Office supervisor and a detention center supervisor.

Deputies will pass on any information pertinent to the prisoner (medical issues, complaints of injury, indicators of suicide, etc.) to jail personnel upon arrival.


If a prisoner escapes from custody, the deputy will immediately notify the San Juan County Communications Authority over the radio and relay the following information:

  • Location of the escape,
  • Physical and clothing description of the prisoner,
  • Known weapon information, and
  • The last known method and direction of travel.


Deputies may transport citizens for various reasons who are neither under arrest nor detained. This is courtesy to civilians and at no time will citizen or deputy safety be compromised.

Citizens being transported will be identified and patted down for weapons. Any legal weapon found may be held by the deputy for the duration of the transport. Bags or purses should be separated from the subject but not searched. If a civilian refuses to be identified or searched, the deputy will not conduct the transport. All transports will be recorded via the in-car camera and the mileage/location reported for opposite gender and/or juvenile transports.

As a general rule, civilians being transported will be required to wear a seat belt and children must be in an appropriate child restraint device. Circumstances that would necessitate deviation from this provision must be approved by a supervisor.


  1. Civil Liability for the Use of Handcuffs: 2008 (10) AELE Mo. L. J. 101
  2. Cruz v. City of Laramie, 239 F.3d 1183 (10th Cir. 2001)
  3. Fisher v. City of Las Cruces 584 F.3d 888 (10th Cir. 2008)
  4. SJCSO Policy OPER-330 “In-Car Video”
  5. SJCSO Policy OPER-338 “Juveniles”
  6. SJCSO Policy IT-600 “Building Access”