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LEO Near Miss: Handgun missed on multiple pat-downs

Agencies should consider providing supplemental training on identifying characteristics of weapon concealment to patrol officers

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Both the initial county officer and state trooper had missed a pistol in the passenger’s groin area.

Photo/LEO Near Miss

Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows law enforcement personnel to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.


An officer with a local police department conducted a traffic stop for a minor traffic violation. There were two occupants in the vehicle.

Upon contact, the officer detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and was immediately backed up by a state trooper. The county officer removed the driver from the vehicle and located a pistol on his person during a pat-down.

There was a brief struggle, but the county officer was able to place the driver under arrest without further incident.

The trooper removed the passenger from the vehicle and patted him down with negative results. The passenger was placed in handcuffs, but an arrest was not anticipated at the time. The county officer then patted down the passenger, who was in handcuffs and found no contraband either.

A county supervisor and another county officer arrived on scene to investigate the use of force.

The primary county officer indicated that the driver was under arrest and the passenger would be released from the scene.

The supervisor wanted to get a statement about the incident from the passenger and instructed the newly arrived county officer to un-cuff the passenger. The newly arrived county officer conducted a pat-down before removing the handcuffs and located a pistol in the passenger’s groin area. Both the initial county officer and state trooper had missed the pistol in the passenger’s groin area.

Lessons Learned

  • Use correct search techniques every time. It is believed gender played a role in this incident. The primary county officer and state trooper were both male, whereas the county officer who ultimately located the weapon was female so may have been less bashful about patting down the groin area of a male subject.
  • The officer who finally located the pistol is currently assigned to an elite crime prevention unit and, as such, is very aware of weapon concealment. Agencies should consider providing supplemental training on identifying characteristics of weapon concealment to patrol officers during annual in-service training. Such training is currently offered for free through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s VALOR (Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability) Program. See for more information.


Support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared, and consider sharing your own near-miss experiences at

Established in 1970, the National Policing Institute, formerly the National Police Foundation, is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit research organization, sometimes referred to as a think-tank, focused on pursuing excellence in policing through science and innovation. Our research and applied use of research guide us as we engage directly with policing organizations and communities to provide technical assistance, training, and research and development services to enhance safety, trust, and legitimacy. To view our work, visit us at

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