From the Selangor Times 21 September 2012. Ask Lord Bobo is a weekly column by LoyarBurok where all your profound, abstruse, erudite, hermetic, recondite, sagacious, and other thesaurus-described queries are answered!
Dear Lord Bobo, in what situations can the authorities carry out a strip search? Is it just the police, or do other authorities (eg immigration officers) also have this power? How about cavity searches? Is it possible for me (as a man) to be searched by a female? (Submissive, via email)
Dear Submissive, before addressing your questions, we think it very necessary, although not significant, to distinguish a strip search from a striptease, because of the word “strip” (but also because we like to talk about stripteases).
A striptease, unlike a strip search, is a voluntary act where a person removes articles of clothing until they are naked as the day they were born (minus the gooey placenta bits, unless one is into that kind of thing). A striptease is usually accompanied by seductive, sensual, and occasionally sleazy music, and the items of clothing are removed while the stripper executes a slow, teasing and sensual dance. A token monetary sum is not mandatory at the end of the performance to qualify the performance as a striptease.
A strip search however is often involuntary, and done upon the instruction of a police officer. You are not supposed to be thoroughly naked.
A strip search only requires you to remove all or part of your outer clothing. You will be allowed to keep your underwear on, unless you are wearing none – but the lack of underwear will not transform the strip search into a striptease.
The police officer can inspect your clothing. He should ask you to put your hands on your head and to raise your arms whereupon he will either walk around you or have you turn 360 degrees for him to inspect you visually.
If you have been in the habit of eating too many Large Double Big Mac Value Meals, he can direct you to lift the excess flesh so that he may inspect underneath. Women may be asked to lift their breasts and separate them for inspection.
In all these cases, the police officer is not supposed to touch you. The police must take care to ensure minimal contact if they need to inspect your intimate areas.
If there is anything taken from you, the officer must make a list for you to sign and give you a copy.
A strip search can only be authorised by an officer the rank of Inspector or above.
A cavity search is known as an intrusive search. This can only be authorised by an officer in charge of the police district, and only carried out by a medical officer at a hospital in the presence of a police officer of the same sex (unless the suspect suffers from a gender identity disorder). It can also be done by a hospital assistant or registered nurse under the direction of a medical officer.
Most law enforcement officers will have the right to carry out a pat down search. However, a strip search, intimate search, or an intrusive search needs to be authorised by the appropriate police officer before it can be carried out.
And finally, please be aware that you are not allowed to request for a female officer that meets your aesthetic criteria to carry out the search. They will not line up female officers and have you select “number 6 please”. Although some Malaysian police stations may have the look and feel of Patpong go-go bars, they do not operate in the same way.
You may not request her to search certain parts of your body with more intensity than others (“Yes, lower lower, right there.”), nor direct the manner in which she should carry out the search (“Five fingers please.”).
In fact, although it is legally possible for a female to search a male, it is standard operating procedure for an officer of the same gender as the suspect (although not same inclinations) to carry out the search.
Lord Bobo, why are you always so hard on our police force? There are many honest, hardworking police officers who deserve recognition. (Respect Our Boys in Blue, via email)
We completely agree. His Supreme Eminenceness is very appreciative of all the hardworking police officers who serve the country and the rakyat with such dedication – many for all of their working lives. Lord Bobo has never disparaged or criticised these officers.
However, there is obviously something very wrong with the way the police force works.
This is not the fault of individual officers (perhaps some higher-ups, but definitely not the police force in general). They have to work within a system where the government and the Home Minister have an unreasonable amount of control over what they do, and how they do it.
It is a well-known fact by now that the allocation of resources needs to be seriously looked into, particularly in the on-going fight against escalating crime.
Too many police officers are assigned administrative functions.
Too many good men and women are made to serve as outriders so supposedly Very Important Persons and their family, friends, and hangers-on, need not sit through traffic jams like us “normal Malaysians”.
Too many are assigned as “Special Branch” – ie to attend and snoop around any potentially “anti-government” forums and gatherings, and to keep tabs on Opposition politicians and human rights activists.
And of course we have the government and the Home Minister directing operations, where so-called “crimes” against government politicians are apparently far more serious than real crime against regular rakyat, and definitely more serious than the gangsterism and unlawful intimidation of Opposition politicians.
As we have said before – and it is worth repeating this until it happens – the government, authorities, and the police force need to understand and accept that their duties are owed not just to those who support the government of the day, but to all Malaysians regardless of political affiliation or VIP status.
Lord Bobo accepts that it is almost always not the fault of individual police officers that they have to work within a system that is badly broken.
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