When any MP has a "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity, he has the right to stop, request identification,
and question the person suspected. The stop must be based on reasonable suspicion that the subject has
committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. MP may conduct a patdown or frisk search to look for
concealed weapons. The proper basis for the frisk is reasonable belief that the subject is armed and dangerous.
The purpose of the frisk search is to ensure the MP's safety. Consider the following example:
Two men are hovering about a street corner for a long time. It is apparent that they are not waiting for anyone or
anything. The two men take turns pacing an identical route numerous times. Every time each man paces, he
stops and looks through the window of the PX. After each route is completed, the two men talk with each other
on the street corner. A while later, a third man joins their conversation and then quickly leaves. The two men
leave, follow the third man and join with him again a couple of blocks away. Under these circumstances, are
there sufficient grounds to make an investigatory stop? Yes.
It is clear that this is suspicious behavior. These men seem to be "casing" the PX.
These are the facts of a landmark case, TERRY V. OHIO, 329 U.S. 1 (1968), which established the standard for
all stop and frisk cases. The standard is "reasonable suspicion."
Military police and investigators must be aware of a significant new development in the law of stop and frisk.
The "plain feel" doctrine is a variant of the "plain view" rules developed over many years of case law. It was first
mentioned by the Supreme Court in the case of Minnesota v. Dickerson, 113 SCt 2130 (1993). In this case, the
court stated that while police may seize nonthreatening contraband detected by "plain feel" during a Terry frisk,
the incriminating nature of the contraband must be immediately apparent, for Terry does not permit an
exploratory manipulation of the outside clothing to determine the identity of a pocket's contents.
In analogizing the new "plain feel" doctrine to the long standing "plain view" doctrine, Justice White stated, "... If
a police officer lawfully pats down a suspect's outer clothing and feels an object whose contour and mass makes
its identity immediately apparent, there has been no invasion of privacy beyond that already authorized by the
officer's search for weapons; if the object is contraband, its warrantless seizure would be justified by the same
practical considerations that inhere in the plain view context." Minnesota v. Dickerson, 113 SCt 2130, 2132
(1993). There are no reported military cases yet concerning the employment of this new doctrine.
An MP should make a frisk search in the presence of an assistant or witness. Ensure that the search is conducted
by persons of the same sex. See Figure 1-4. The subject should stand with his or her back to the searcher. The