Understanding proper protocol for law enforcement searches

MILWAUKEE -- The charges leveled against four Milwaukee police officers accused of conducting illegal strip searches and body cavity searches has many wondering about proper protocol during such searches. FOX6 News reached out to Richard Cole -- a recruit training coordinator at the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) for answers.

Cole says law enforcement instructors expect students to have questions about proper protocol for searches. His job is to help potential police recruits to abide by the laws.

"When they're learning the basics is when you have the opportunity to really lay-out -- this is how these things have to be done," Cole said.

Cole said he cannot address the current case involving the MPD officers and the strip and cavity searches, but he can talk about proper protocol in general.

"Invasive body cavity searches are something that law enforcement is not to do. There's a specific set of criteria on who is to do these things," Cole said.

According to the Wisconsin Criminal Law Handbook, "No person other than a physician, physician assistant or registered nurse licensed to practice in this state may conduct a body cavity search."

"Our students don't learn cavity searches because our students don't do cavity searches," Cole said.

When those students become officers, they are allowed to conduct strip searches, but only under specific circumstances.

According to the handbook, an officer can only conduct a strip search if the "person conducting the search has obtained the prior written permission of the chief, sheriff or law enforcement administrator."

"This is a time when you're talking to a supervisor saying, 'Okay, we think somebody's got something. What do we do about it?'" Cole said.

Cole has experience as both an Assistant District Attorney and a private practice defense attorney. Considering those perspectives, he says if a search is against the law, a judge is probably going to determine the search is unreasonable. If that is the case, the evidence gathered will likely be thrown out.

CLICK HERE for more stories on the alleged illegal strip searches conducted by MPD officers.