Delivering on his promise to implement equitable changes to police practices in the City of San Diego, Mayor Todd Gloria, and San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit today announced changes to the San Diego Police Department’s consent search procedures, found within Department Procedure 4.01, which governs how police officers can search for a person or property.
“We are modifying the Police Department’s consent search procedures to be more clear, concise, and just,” Mayor Gloria said. “We want to make sure that our officers and the people they serve are protected while also ensuring individuals who are searched know their rights and have them respected. This is a key step to building more trust between our Police Department and the community.”
Consent searches allow officers to search an individual’s person, vehicle, or home without a warrant if the individual gives consent. Consent searches comprise approximately 10% of all searches conducted by SDPD. Before its revisions, members of the public have indicated that, when presented with the option of consent, they have felt intimidated and confused, creating questions of how and when consent is requested by officers and granted.
Key highlights from the modifications to the consent search procedure include:
- Obtaining consent for a search in verbal or written form and that it must be granted both freely and voluntarily.
- Documenting verbal consent using Body-Worn Camera (BWC) and recording a clear request to search the premises, person, personal property, or vehicle. If BWC is not an available option, written consent shall be obtained.
- Ensuring searches are not unduly intensive or intrusive to not unnecessarily harm the individual or destroy or damage the property or location during the search.
- Maintaining the scope and reasonable duration of the search to not exceed what is granted by the individual.
- Notifying the person of the right to refuse, modify or withdraw consent to a search at any time, even after consent was given and the search has begun.
“Consent searches remain a valuable tool for officers to proactively address crime in our communities,” Chief Nisleit said. “This addition to Procedure 4.01 provides greater clarity on how consent searches are conducted, informs citizens of their rights, and still allows officers to employ this investigative technique to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
The changes to consensual searches are part of Mayor Gloria’s proposed reforms to police practices announced in April. To date, several of the Mayor’s proposed reforms have been implemented including the elimination of gang injunctions, removing the Office of Homeland Security (now known as Office of Emergency Services) from the Police Department, and funding the independent Commission on Police Practices.
SDPD continually revises and adapts policies and procedures to reflect new laws and improve policing practices in San Diego. Today’s revisions to the consent search policy are just one of several changes made to SDPD policies and procedures in recent years to more clearly define expectations for interactions between SDPD officers and the public.