I can't believe many in ALSAR have not heard the rumour that has been around for probably nearly a year now - that Cheshire Police require search in straight lines.
Well, as a SAR journalist now, I find myself in a position that I can start asking these sorts of questions to police forces and expecting replies. So I had a long chat yesterday with a Cheshire Police Search spokesman and asked him whether it was true that Cheshire Police only allow search in straight lines?
Here are some of the things he said;
Cheshire Police use Cheshire Search and Rescue in a 2-fold way. It may be that they give them the search parameters and let them get on with in themselves, or they work alongside police search teams. Generally they will work together in a joint Control Point, side by side. Cheshire Police, however, do not dictate search methods!
When pushed on whether or not they have to search in straight lines the spokesman reiterated that they "do not dictate how to search" and they "follow best practice". However, he then went on to say that search tactics are dictated by the geography and information about the misper. Whilst Cheshire Police have access to the Grampian Data they do not "stick rigidly to it but use it as a point of reference."
The Police Spokesman gave the example of a route or track and that it wouldn't be appropriate to line search this, but other areas would require a line search. These area searches would be done in a line. When pushed for how searchers are spaced apart the spokesman said that it is dependant on the "depth of search and the nature of the ground" but when it was suggested that say 15 metres might be a figure he answered that if they "couldn't see the ground between them" it would not be appropriate and that areas might better be sectorised so that the searchers did not need to wander.
He went on to say that "I would expect with confidence that they have searched that area " and that the searchers should be "confident no individual was missed". He reiterated that if the "searchers couldn't see the woodland between them they aren't searching effectively" and asked the question "are we really confident we are covering [the area]?"
When it was suggested to him that some believe that it is better to search an area with searchers spaced further apart to cover more ground he stated that Cheshire Police consider the whole facts of the case and the likelihood of finding an individual in an area and that if that requires searchers to be shoulder width apart to get the degree of confidence that the individual is not there they will do that. They need to look at the "bigger picture".
He did then with some prompting go on to say that "early on in a search you might need to cover as much ground as possible as quick as possible"...
The Cheshire Police Spokesman closed the interview reiterating what a valuable resource Cheshire Search and Rescue are and how well they work together.
So there you have it Cheshire police do not dictate search techniques and do not expect searchers to search in straight lines... except in a line search of an area!
Picture courtesy of Hampshire Search and Rescue deplicting a training exercise - NOT actual search training!