6-7 Handling & Transporting Custodial Arrestees 

Policy Type: Local

Responsible Office: Chief John Venuti, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 8/4/2014

Current Revision Approved: 2/18/2019



Transportation of persons in custody is frequently required by VCU Police Department (VCUPD) officers. During the transfer of any persons in custody, officers shall take care not to endanger themselves and to ensure the arrestee’s safety, thereby limiting opportunities for escape.

It is VCUPD’s policy to ensure that all persons under custodial arrest are handled as safely and efficiently as possible in order to protect the arrestee, members of the community, and law enforcement personnel. To ensure public safety, all arrestees placed in a police vehicle will be searched and properly handcuffed and secured in the vehicle, including proper seat belt use, as applicable, even if the arrestee is only to be held on a temporary basis. The purpose of this directive is to establish the proper guidelines for the handling of custodial arrestees by VCUPD personnel.


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any policy violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.



  1. Securing Custodial Arrestees: Department-approved restraint devices (handcuffs, leg irons, and/or belly chains) shall be used whenever a prisoner is taken into custody, and shall remain in place until the prisoner arrives at their destination, unless the application of such devices present a risk to a prisoner’s health or safety due to a physical condition (handicap, injury, or illness) or mental state, or the application is physically impossible to accomplish.
    1. Handcuff Procedures:
      1. Officers shall handcuff all adult arrestees. Juvenile offenders, regardless of age, shall be handcuffed prior to transport.
      2. For safety and control reasons, arrestees will be handcuffed behind their backs, unless there is specific justification for doing otherwise.
        1. Note: If an arrestee provides notice that she is pregnant, handcuffs shall be placed in the front of the arrestee.
      3. Handcuffs are to be placed on the suspect with the keyholes facing up and hand palms pointing outward, if possible, with the double locking pins depressed.
      4. Arrestees are not be handcuffed to stationary objects.
    2. Leg Irons and Belly Chains:
      1. If necessary, department-issued leg irons and/or belly chains may be used as restraint devices. These items are stored in the Patrol Division and supervisor approval is required prior to usage.
      2. Belly chains are to be placed around an arrestee’s waist, with the brass handcuff ring passed through the chain link nearest the center of the front of the arrestee’s waist. The officer shall then secure a department-issued handcuff bracelet to one of the arrestee’s wrists, and pass the second bracelet through the ring to the other wrist. All excess chain shall then be secured to the belly chain encircling the suspect’s waist by means of the provided clip.
      3. Leg irons shall be attached to the arrestee’s ankle area, above the anklebone, with the locking mechanism facing upward, and the double locking pins depressed.
    3. Other Types of Restraint Devices:
      1. Nylon flexible restraints are not authorized for use as a primary restraint device; however, they may be used if the situation warrants (i.e., mass arrests, arrests within unruly crowds, etc.). Mass arrest kits, which contain flexible restraints, are available at the request of the supervisor on the scene. Proper handcuffing techniques shall also apply to the use of flexible restraints, with consideration for security, safety, and comfort. Mass arrest kits are located at VCUPD Headquarters.
      2. Thumb cuffs, hobbles, and other non-approved restraint devices shall not be used under any circumstances.
  2. Search and Transport of Arrestees:
    1. All persons under arrest are to be considered potentially dangerous, and will be thoroughly searched for weapons and/or contraband by the arresting officer prior to transport.
    2. Whenever an arrestee is relinquished to the custody of a transporting officer, that officer will search the arrestee for weapons and/or contraband.
    3. Any vehicle used or having the potential to be used for prisoner transport shall be inspected for weapons and/or contraband prior to beginning a tour of duty. The transporting officer shall also search the transport vehicle for weapons and/or contraband before and after transporting the arrestee.
    4. As a matter of routine, a violent or disruptive arrestee should not be placed in a patrol car. All such arrestees should be transported in a patrol wagon, if available.
    5. Officers involved in transporting arrestees are not to wear/utilize their seat belt
    6. Officers shall document all prisoner transports and shall note any unusual circumstances or events. Officers shall document the circumstances of any apparently ill or injured prisoners and any medical treatment provided. If transport is due to an IBR offense, include in the IBR narrative any unusual circumstances or events.
    7. Any injury to a prisoner that is not related to police use of force (such as injury to a prisoner in a transport wagon or an injury created by a prisoner trying to flee arrest) shall be reported via a formal letter, with a supervisory cover letter, photos, and any arrest documentation attached. The original documentation will be forwarded through appropriate channels to the Chief of Police.
    8. When transporting an arrestee, the transporting officer shall provide law enforcement services only under the following circumstances:
      1. A need exists for the transporting officer to act immediately in order to stop or prevent a violent act and prevent further harm to a victim.
      2. A person has been injured and assistance is required immediately.
      3. A crime is in progress, thus creating an immediate need to apprehend the suspect.
      4. In all of the above situations, the transporting officer shall ensure, at all times, that the arrestee is secured and protected.
      5. Non-emergency situations shall be radioed to Dispatch by the transporting officer. Dispatch shall be responsible for dispatching the non-emergency incident to an available unit.
      6. If a non-police occupant (e.g., prisoner, witness, complainant, citizen, ride-along, etc.) is in the vehicle, the officer will not engage in a pursuit, unless that passenger is first discharged at a safe location.
      7. It is not a violation of this procedure to intervene in an emergency or life-threatening situation. Only when the risk to third parties is both clear and grave and the risk to the prisoner is minimal, shall a transporting officer stop to render assistance.
  3. Transporting Arrestees in a Patrol Car:
    1. In a one-officer unit, the arrestee will be properly handcuffed, secured and seat belted in the right front seat of the vehicle and all doors will be locked.
    2. In two-officer units, the arrestee will be placed in the right front seat, handcuffed behind the back and seat belted in, with all doors locked. The second officer will ride behind the driver.
    3. When transporting two arrestees in a two-officer unit, one arrestee will be placed in the front right seat of the vehicle, and the other in the back right seat and properly handcuffed secured and seat belted. The second officer will ride behind the driver.
    4. As a matter of routine, no more than two (2) arrestees may be transported in a patrol car; however, in mass arrest situations or other emergency situations, supervisors may authorize the transportation of up to three (3) arrestees, if absolutely necessary.
      1. NOTE: The above procedures denote the safest method for transporting arrestees; however, circumstances in the field may warrant the need for deviation from department procedures. In such situations, officers shall use their best judgment to ensure that arrestees are transported safely and securely.
  4. Transporting Arrestees in Caged Patrol Vehicles:
    1. The arrestee shall be placed in the passenger rear. Unless absolutely necessary and with supervisory approval, officers shall refrain from transporting more than one (1) arrestee in a caged patrol vehicle.
  5. Transporting Arrestees in the Patrol Wagon:
    1. When transporting arrestees, the rear and side doors of the patrol wagon will be locked.
    2. Male and female arrestees will not be placed in the same compartment of a patrol wagon. Juveniles will not be transported with adult arrestees.
    3. The wagon driver shall, during transports of multiple arrestees, visibly check on the status of each and every arrestee being transported in the wagon whenever taking an additional arrestee into custody for transport. During a transport of a single arrestee only, the wagon driver or designee should periodically, as time and circumstances permit, visibly check on the status of the arrestee.
    4. The wagon driver and arresting officer shall ensure the arrestee is properly handcuffed, secured and seat belted. Each officer will evaluate the feasibility of seat belting an arrestee. If an arrestee’s conduct may risk injury to the officer during seat belting, the officer will ensure the arrestee is properly handcuffed and placed in wagon without a seat belt.
    5. When handling and searching arrestees, officers shall remain mindful of Written Directive 6-10 Communicable Diseases.
  6. Control of Arrestees During Transport:
    1. During transport, the arrestee shall not be allowed to communicate with other persons unless deemed absolutely necessary by the transporting officer due to medical emergencies or other exigent circumstances.
    2. The transporting officer shall continuously observe the arrestee, even when it becomes necessary to allow the arrestee the use of a toilet.
    3. In a situation where observation is not possible (female arrestee needing toilet facilities and male transporting officer or vice versa), the officer shall exercise as much control of the situation as possible. The arrestee shall not be allowed in the facility with another person and the officer shall ensure that there are no escape routes within the facility and no weapon available to the arrestee.
    4. If the arrestee appears lethargic, particularly after an active confrontation with the officers, or appears unresponsive, consider the possibility that immediate medical assistance may be necessary. Observe the arrestee carefully and if the officer has any doubt about the arrestee’s health, summon medical assistance immediately. Officers should ask an apparently sick arrestee if they would like medical assistance.
    5. The transporting officer shall advise the receiving officer of the arrestee’s medical condition.
    6. The transporting officer shall forewarn the receiving officer or facility of any prisoner considered a security hazard so that appropriate security measures can be established.
  7. Procedures for Transporting Members of the Opposite Sex, Juveniles, and the Physically Disabled:
    1. Transporting Members of the Opposite Sex:
      1. If a female officer is required, by circumstance, to transport a male arrestee or if a male officer is required to transport a female arrestee, the transporting officer shall notify Dispatch via radio of the final destination at the beginning of the transport, activate their body worn camera and arbitrator (if available).
      2. Upon arrival at the final destination, the transporting officer shall immediately notify Dispatch via radio of the ending mileage.
      3. If the arrestee is transported to a hospital, subsequently treated, and released, the transporting officer shall notify Dispatch as outlined above prior to transporting the arrestee to the lockup.
    2. Transporting Juvenile Offenders:
      1. Juvenile offenders, regardless of age, shall be handcuffed prior to transporting.
      2. Juveniles under 13 years of age shall not be transported in patrol wagons, unless their actions warrant such a response. A supervisor shall be notified as soon as safely possible regarding the transport of a juvenile.
      3. If the arresting officer feels the need to transport a juvenile by means other than a normal patrol vehicle, they should attempt to use a caged patrol unit, before using a patrol wagon.
      4. The destination shall be recorded and reported by radio to Dispatch.
    3. Transporting Physically Disabled Arrestees:
      1. Department-approved restraint devices will be used on physically disabled arrestees, as determined to be appropriate by the arresting officer. Officers shall exercise their best judgment in determining the proper method for securing the individual(s).
      2. Officers shall take special precautions to ensure that the arrested individual and any prosthetic devices and/or wheel chairs are carefully examined for contraband and/or weapons, prior to transporting.
      3. If unsure of how to secure and transport a disabled individual, officers shall contact their supervisor for guidance.
      4. A supervisor may make a determination that the only way to transport a prisoner is by ambulance. Depending on the severity of the charge, a supervisor may have an officer ride in the ambulance, or follow the ambulance in a police unit. A supervisor may summons an ambulance through Dispatch.
      5. The arresting officer shall closely monitor the disabled arrestee to reduce the opportunity of escape, suicide, and assault on hospital and/or EMS personnel. Only under unusual circumstances, deemed medically necessary, will the arrestee be allowed out of the arresting officer’s sight.
  8. Medical Treatment Procedures for Injured/Sick Arrestees:
    1. Officers shall notify a supervisor when an arrestee may be in need of medical attention. The supervisor will determine whether the arrestee is to be transported to the VCU Medical Center or whether an ambulance is necessary (the officer may summons an ambulance through Dispatch and depending on the severity of the charge, a supervisor may have an officer ride in the ambulance or follow the ambulance in a police unit).
    2. Taking into account the arrestee’s injuries, all arrestees will be handcuffed prior to being transported to the hospital.
    3. If the arrestee’s injuries are such that they have to remain in the hospital, the officer shall notify the magistrate and advise them that an arrestee is being admitted for medical care. It is the responsibility of the magistrate to respond to the hospital for a bond hearing.
    4. It is also the responsibility of the magistrate to complete the Commitment to Jail Form, which transfers custody of the arrestee to correctional personnel.
    5. Custody of an Arrestee Receiving Medical Care:
      1. While an arrestee is in the custody of a VCUPD officer, the officer shall continuously monitor them to ensure their safety and the safety of others. VCUPD officers must maintain visual contact with the arrestee at all times. The arresting officer shall closely monitor the arrestee to reduce the opportunity of escape, suicide, and assault on hospital and/or EMS personnel.
      2. During this time, VCUPD officers shall limit their cell phone usage. Brief phone usage is acceptable; however, officers must remain attentive to the safety of the respondent and ensure the safety of others.
      3. VCUPD officers are prohibited from watching videos, playing games, or utilizing tablets, books or any other form of entertainment while an arrestee is in their custody.
      4. If restraints are removed for treatment, caution should be exercised while the arrestee is unfettered. Only under unusual circumstances, deemed medically necessary, will the arrestee be allowed out of the arresting officer’s sight.
      5. It is the arresting officer’s responsibility to remain with the arrestee in the hospital until the Department of Corrections’ officer or the Sheriff’s deputy arrives and secures custody.
    6. When physical custody is transferred, the officer on the scene will be responsible for ensuring that any and all department leg irons and belly chains used are returned to the proper patrol wagon.
    7. If an arrestee refuses medical treatment, they shall be asked to sign a Medical Refusal Form. If the arrestee refuses, the officer shall have hospital personnel sign the form and indicate “AMA” (Against Medical Advice), before the arrestee is transported to the lockup.
    8. The transporting officer shall note in the Incident Report narrative whether the arrestee received or refused medical treatment. The narrative shall contain all pertinent information relative to the hospital visit. The arresting officer shall retain a copy of the “AMA” report. The Incident Report shall specifically contain all of the following:
      1. The name of the attending physician
      2. The nature of the injury or problem
      3. The names of witnessing officers, supervisors, or medical personnel on the scene
    9. The detention personnel shall be given a copy of the Emergency Room Sheet stating that the suspect has been “treated and released” or “refused treatment.”
  9. Positional Asphyxia – Sudden Death: Although rare, sudden in-custody deaths appear to most often be associated with the following variables:
    1. Cocaine-induced bizarre or frenzied behavior – when occurring while the suspect is confined by restraints, cocaine-induced delirium may increase a subject’s susceptibility to sudden death by causing their heart rate to increase to a critical level.
    2. Drugs and/or alcohol intoxication – a major risk factor as the respiratory drive is reduced and subjects may not realize that they are suffocating.
    3. Violent struggle, extreme enough to require officers to employ some type of restraint technique - Subjects who have engaged in extremely violent activities may be more vulnerable to subsequent respiratory failure.
    4. Unresponsiveness of subject, during or immediately after a struggle – such unresponsive behavior may indicate cardiopulmonary arrest and the need for immediate medical attention.
    5. The risk of positional asphyxia is compounded when an individual with predisposing factors (e.g., obesity, alcohol, high drug use, or an enlarged heart, etc.) becomes involved in a violent struggle with an officer, particularly when physical restraint includes the use of behind-the-back handcuffing, in combination with placing the subject in a stomach-down position.
    6. Whenever possible, officers shall avoid the use of maximally prone restraint techniques (i.e., hogtying). To minimize the potential for in-custody injury or death, officers shall adhere to the following:
      1. Follow existing training and policy guidelines for situations involving physical restraint of subjects (see also VCUPD’s Written Directive 1-7 Use of Force)
      2. Get the subject off their stomach as soon after handcuffing as circumstances allow
      3. Ask the subject if they have used drugs recently, or suffer from any cardiac or respiratory diseases or conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema
      4. Monitor the subject carefully, and if needed, obtain medical treatment for the subject
      5. Obtain medical care upon the subject’s request, if they experience difficulty breathing
      6. f. If the subject is turned over to lockup, inform the deputy sheriffs of any preexisting medical conditions (cardiac or respiratory, if known) or that the subject requested or needed medical treatment or was unconscious at any time
      7. Officers involved in a confrontational situation shall document as much information as possible about the incident, which may be valuable in a potential subsequent civil or criminal action case
  10. Processing and Testing:
    1. Supervision and Accountability:
      1. An arrestee may be detained for the purpose of breathalyzer procedures at the Richmond Justice Center or other available breathalyzer room, and/or for juvenile processing procedures, in the department’s juvenile processing areas. For additional information regarding juvenile procedures, see VCUPD’s Written Directive 7-5 Juvenile Procedures.
      2. Officers are responsible for the supervision of all arrestees brought into custody at all times. Officers shall search all arrestees prior to juvenile processing and/or breathalyzer testing.
      3. Arrestees shall not be left unattended at any time.
    2. Safety Procedures:
      1. Officers are accountable for individuals brought into the department or any other facility.
      2. Officers shall keep potentially violent arrestees restrained in handcuffs while undergoing processing and/or testing. Combative adult arrestees will not remain in department facilities, but transported directly to lockup.
      3. Officers shall document the date, time and reason for detainee processing in and out of the processing and/or testing areas.
      4. Officers shall secure their firearm(s) prior to entering the processing and testing areas in the weapons lockbox.
      5. In the event that an officer finds themselves in a situation of duress, they shall utilize their department-issued radio to call for assistance.
      6. Following the completion of processing and/or testing, the arrestee shall immediately be transported to lockup. Under no circumstances will the processing or testing areas be used as temporary detention facilities.
  11. Transporting Arrestees from Contiguous Jurisdictions:
    1. A police officer, making an arrest in a contiguous jurisdiction under a warrant or capias, shall bring the arrested person before the magistrate or Judge in the locality where the arrest was made or where the charge is to be tried for an immediate bail hearing or commit the accused to the custody of an officer from the county or city where the charge is to be tried.
    2. When beyond contiguous counties, the Richmond Justice Center will handle the processing of the arrestee to the proper jurisdiction.
  12. Going beyond a Contiguous Jurisdiction to make an Arrest:
    1. Dispatch will send a Teletype to the appropriate jurisdiction to inform them that the subject is wanted.
  13. Escapes: If a prisoner escapes while in custody or being transported, the arresting transporting officer shall observe all of the following procedures:
    1. Request assistance immediately from the jurisdiction the officer is in at the time of the escape
    2. The transporting officer shall immediately provide Dispatch with all of the below information so it can be simulcast to assisting officers and proper supervisory notifications can be made:
      1. Location
      2. Direction and method of travel, and means of escape
      3. Name and physical description of the escapee
      4. Possible weapons possessed by the escapee
      5. Pending charges
    3. Officers shall make every attempt to recapture the escapee as soon as possible. Va. Code § 19.2- 77 authorizes an officer to pursue and arrest the escaped prisoner anywhere in Virginia, if in close pursuit.
    4. The arresting transporting officer’s supervisor shall submit a written report to the Chief of Police, through channels, as soon as practicable explaining the circumstances of the escape.
  14. Special Situation Transports:
    1. Prisoner transports for unique circumstances such as to attend funerals, to visit a critically ill relative or to attend the reading of a will, is a function of the Richmond Sheriff’s Office and shall not be performed by members of the VCU Police Department.
    2. Prisoner transports to court or from one detention facility to another is a function of the Richmond Sheriff’s Office and shall not be performed by members of the VCU Police Department.
  15. Transfer of Arrestee to Richmond Sheriff’s Office personnel:
    1. Prior to taking custody of the arrestee from the transporting officer, the arrest officer shall secure their weapon(s) in the lockbox provided at the lockup facility and bring the arrestee before the magistrate for a probable cause hearing and possible bond hearing.
    2. The arresting officer shall then search the arrestee again and take the arrestee in front of the magistrate window, where they will complete the forms and pass the relevant paperwork under the window, and wait for the magistrate to conduct a probable cause hearing. If probable cause is established and an arrest warrant and committal form is issued, the arresting officer will wait to receive a Commit to Jail Form from the magistrate. The arresting officer will then relocate with the arrestee, so that the next officer(s) in line can appear before the magistrate.
    3. When the deputies are ready to receive the arrestee, the arresting officer will escort the arrestee to lockup and only remove the restraints once the deputies request that they be removed.
    4. The arresting officer will submit the Commit to Jail Form and any other necessary documentation to the receiving deputies and advise the deputies of any potential medical or security risks pertaining to the arrestee. The arresting officer shall not leave lockup until the deputies notify them that they have custody of the arrestee and that the officer is thereby relieved.
  16. Documentation:
    1. Officers shall document all prisoner transports and note any unusual circumstances or events. Officers shall document the circumstances of any apparently ill or injured prisoners and any medical treatment rendered. If transport is executed due to an IBR offense, include in the IBR narrative any unusual circumstances or events, otherwise append a note to the call, using the MDT, to include the same information. The Sheriff’s Office will not assume custody of the arrestee until all documentation is submitted to the receiving deputy.


Revision History

8/04/2014 - 6-7 Handling and Transporting Custodial Arrestees

7/11/2018 - 6-7 Handling and Transporting Custodial Arrestees