The proper way to search

Posted: April 24, 2009

Investigators from the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau are investigating whether search warrants were properly obtained and executed by some officers in the Narcotics Field Unit.

Here are the steps that are supposed to be followed:

* Police officers must thoroughly investigate a complaint to justify a search. Officers must consult with the highest-ranking supervisor.

* The search-warrant application, written by an officer, should be exact in locations, descriptions, people, dates and times, and quantities of drugs or paraphernalia. A supervisor must review it before approval.

* The application is faxed to the district attorney's charging unit for approval.

* An assistant district attorney evaluates the application, notes approval or disapproval in the margin, and returns it by fax.

* If given the go-ahead, the officers take the application to a judge or bail commissioner at Arraignment Court.

* The judge or bail commissioner signs and affixes his/her seal to the form.

* The warrant must be served within two days of being issued.

* Officers must not use abusive or derogatory language, threats or intimidation while executing a search warrant. Weapons should not be displayed unnecessarily after the safety of the officers has been ensured and the premises secured.

* Property should never be damaged or destroyed unless the search cannot be conducted without such action. The unnecessary damage or destruction of personal property by police during a search is strictly prohibited and WILL result in severe disciplinary action.

* Officers must inventory and record items seized on the search warrant. This paperwork must be completed in the presence of the person from whom items were seized or in the presence of at least one witness.

* Commanding officers must conduct a monthly review of all search warrants and file them.

Source: Philadelphia Police Department

Directive 7 (Search Warrants) - September 1994

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