02 September 2014

How To Handle The Naked Suspect

Not Your Typical Naked Suspect
The subject of this blog was suggested by a Facebook posting of our SleuthSayers brother, Rob Lopresti, in which he published a quote regarding the difficulty of arresting a naked woman.  I responded that I could testify to the truth of this statement; various witticisms were exchanged as you might imagine.  However, as a result, I warned Rob that he had planted the germ of an idea in my near-arid brain for an upcoming article.  I can picture his rather distinguished brows rising in alarm when he sees this title; Rob's thinking running along the lines of, "No...he didn't...he's not really going to write about...poor, needy bastard, so desperate for readers that he stoops to this--a literary sidewalk barker for imaginary lap dancers.  Pitiful!"

Sadly, Rob would be correct if these were his thoughts, at least the part about being desperate for readers.  Of course I'm desperate, Rob!  For God's sake I'm a writer!  However, I wish to set everyone's minds to rest about the following content: I have rated it R for mature, though in some sections it is I for the opposite.

There comes into the life of every police officer (sooner or later; rarely or often) the naked suspect.  This is not a subject extensively covered (stop snickering), if at all, in the police academies of our nation.  Mostly, they arrive unannounced and unexpected, much like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"  Well, the police rarely expect the naked suspect.  You may wonder how professional police officers, like myself, know when a naked person is a suspect.  The answer to this is generally straightforward--when they are naked.  Once a naked person is spotted in a public venue, the police go on high alert--this is not normal behavior.  There are many motives, causes, and M.O.'s, ranging from youthful hi-jinks and drunkenness, to drug-induced euphoria and psychosis.  On a much more serious note, sometimes they are not suspects at all, but victims, but I will not be addressing this aspect in what I intend to be more light-hearted blog.     

I can offer several personal examples of encounters with the naked suspect: It would sometimes happen during a busy summer night at the Jersey Shore, that a naked person, like the proverbial deer, would appear suddenly in the headlights of our marked unit.  Sometime a herd of them.  It was equally possible, though much more rare, for it to occur during daylight hours, as well. 

Making a sweep of the beach in the wee hours before dawn might also reveal people who, through a series of events seemingly beyond their control, had also divested themselves of all clothing.  It appears that, for some, the salubrious sea air loosened the shackles of convention, rendering clothing irrelevant.

Typically, our reaction to such phenomenon was not as enthusiastic as one might expect.  Think about it--is there any dignity left to the officer who arrests the naked suspect?  I think you may know the answer to that if you think about it.  You've only to picture yourself tackling a naked dude, or gal, in view of dozens, if not hundreds, of on-lookers.  And then what?  Do you normally carry around a casual-wear wardrobe in the trunk of your car?  Note: We did carry blankets in the trunks of our patrol units, though not specifically for the purpose of clothing the naked.  May I also direct your attention to the question of why, when carefully considered, you would wish to handle a sweaty, naked stranger when you have no idea where he/she has been?  And though Hollywood would have it otherwise, naked folk are not always attractive--at least to others.  They often find themselves quite lovely, hence the paucity of clothing.  In one long-running affair, we had a senior citizen who felt his nakedness on the beach, or while swimming, was something no reasonable person could object to.  He was no Jack Lalane, nor was he destined for a leading role in adult cinema.  Oddly, many beachgoers did object, especially small-minded mothers and fathers with young children.  As I once pointed out to him, "This is not France, buddy."

In another instance, when responding to a complaint of a noisy party in the wee hours, we were confronted with an array of naked suspects.  It appeared that an all-female pool party was in progress, sans swim-wear.  After a lengthy surveillance to ensure that no actual crime was in progress, we revealed our presence and quickly restored order--one of the less painful encounters of the naked sort, that I had so far endured.  Caution rookie officer: this was an exception, not the norm for the naked encounter!  Most will make you cry out, "Oh dear God, no!  My eyes...my eyes!"  At the very least, you can expect to question the wisdom of your last meal.

The aforementioned blanket may, in fact, be your best defense against the naked suspect.  Here is a technique you may wish to remember: Summoned to a domestic, my partner and I were confronted with a fully clothed husband, and a completely naked wife.  She was a very angry naked wife.  She was also very drunk and drugged-out, and using their bed as a trampoline while hurling all available objects at us, screaming, "Don't touch me!"  The EMT's took one look and said, "We'll wait outside with the ambulance."  My partner and I looked at one another and shared a single thought--blanket! 

With panther-like grace, he leapt onto the still-quaking bed, seizing her hand in a reverse-wrist take-down and bringing her face-down onto the mattress.  There we proceeded to quickly roll her into the top cover like a cocktail sausage.  It was not dignified, but it was effective, and resulted in the least amount of handling possible in the circumstances.

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
Some naked suspects, as you can see from the previous example, want to fight.  As the person is clearly not armed in most cases, the option of deadly force is rendered moot.  Pepper spray is not, however.  A naked guy who feels like his face is on fire should rank highly among things you don't want to experience in this, or any other, lifetime.  Picture Edvard Munch's "The Scream," (helpfully provided) and you have some idea of the result.  Yet, the naked perp has even more to fear from the officer who's aim has been thrown off by his assault.  Should the pepper spray find other exposed areas, the suspect may feel he has been transported to a realm far beyond the understanding of mortal man, a place reserved exclusively for those condemned to the seventh ring of hell; the final stop for the violent.  There, his previous understanding of agony will become transcendental, achieving a kind of satanic ecstasy.  Do not envy him this knowledge.

So there you have it, dear readers--a smattering of knowledge and ideas on handling the naked suspect--ideas and knowledge that I pray you never have to use, or have used on you.  Nakedness is a wonderful thing if you're centerfold material, or still south of three years old, but for the vast majority of us clothing remains the most appropriate option.  Take it from someone who's seen far more than he ever wanted to, a clothed world is a prettier world.  So until next time--keep your pants on and your hands to yourself.  Still good advice in an uncertain world.


  1. In "Maigret and the Burglar's Wife," he's tipped off to a murder by the BW, who he first encountered naked. He went to her apartment to question her, she took off all her clothes, laid down, and said, "Arrest me." He took your advice, and sent for help and blankets...

  2. Maigret and I agree on many things, Eve. I only wish I were as smart as he.

  3. David, Janet Evanovich has used naked criminals frequently in the Stephanie Plum series. At least one of them was not only nude, he covered his body with petroleum jelly to make it more difficult for the bounty hunger to hold onto him.

    I enjoyed your take on this and will share it with my son, who is in law enforcement and has told me a few tales of serving arrest warrants on people who met him fully unclothed.

  4. Wonderful, David! The most entertaining post I've read in a long time. And (come on, admit it) I bet it was fun to write.

    Law enforcement experience surely provides the world's greatest source of story material.

  5. A naked dude coated with Vaseline--thank God I was spared that much! Fran, I hope your son enjoys my take on the unclothed perpetrator.

    John, I will gladly admit that I did enjoy writing this. As for L.E. experience, yes, it's hard to beat for providing a few entertaining (usually in retrospect) stories along the way.

  6. This does bring to mind that wonderful scene in the Peter Sellers movie, A Shot in the Dark (YOU know the one!)
    Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Having been a hospital director, at a hospital that was also the emergency psych ward for the city, I have seen my share of 'naked suspects' accompanied by weary and long-suffering cops.
    Thank you for this, David!

  7. I must say, David, that this was a wonderful and informative exposure (no pun intended) to that side of LE. How it's handled in a script, while perhaps trying to be real, is nonetheless different than the world you saw.

    Yet, the question that comes to mind is: When is it relevant to the story to have a suspect naked? And can it be ever be used effectively as a red herring? [This said having not read the aforementioned stories by Simenon or Evanovich.]

    One story that immediately comes to mind is The Illustrated Man, which was not a crime or mystery story though there is a 'mystical' element to it, yet in a slight way alluded to the main character' nakedness through the tattoos.

  8. Thanks, Melodie. Now I know why you have such a wonderful sense of humor. Anyone who has worked in a hospital needs one to stay sane and happy. At least cops can get in their cars and drive away!

    Bradley, I don't have ready answers to your questions. It seems every story suggests certain actions and behaviors to the writer, but whether the options include nakedness would certainly differ both by story and author. In my own case, I have only penned one story that featured a naked suspect, "In A Dark Manner," EQMM 2013 Sept/Oct. issue--a young girl murders another while naked in a pool. Unlike this blog,it is not a humorous piece, I must warn you.

  9. Enjoyed your post. It reminded me of an incident that happened here in Knoxville on Tuesday. An intoxicated woman with no pants and no underwear on drove an SUV broadside into a car injuring a mother and her toddler son. Bystanders prevented her leaving the scene. I suppose when the police arrived, she had on pants because she asked one of the women at the scene for pants.

  10. David, thanks for the laughs.
    We once hit a heroin dealer's 3rd floor apartment in K.C., but he somehow got just enough advance notice of our impending raid. In an attempt to show us he was "clean," he greeted us stark naked in his bathroom. The tub was filled with steaming hot water, which included his now sanitized works, a few empty aluminum foil containers and some as yet undissolved gelatin capsules. Any white powder was no longer visible. Too bad for him and his "clean" ploy, we already had buys on him and had to take him anyway.

  11. Yes, Louis, the pant-less perp is not always harmless. But here's a more humorous one to balance the scales: I once had a sergeant who responded to a call of a capsized boater. It was the off-season so there were no life guards on duty. Arriving on the beach, he quickly commandeered a very surprised young man's kayak...and board shorts, and saved a fellow from drowning. This is a true story--I awarded the sergeant for his quick-thinking and decisiveness. For weeks after, every time he passed another officer they would make a big show of grabbing their belt buckles.

    R.T., I've got to say it, I'm sorry--so the perp did not make a clean get-away?

  12. David, I've tried three prior times, since around ten o'clock AZ time, last night, to post a comment. However, I kept laughing so hard my fingers struck too many keys and turned my comments to gibberish. Looks like "4th time's the charm" today! (Okay, in truth I'm still rolling, particularly over: "Do not envy him this knowledge." Writing in word, however, I was able to get it all in.)

  13. charming, David. glad i was able to stand in for the muse.

    Here is another quote, from Jethro Tull: "Be sure to leave your underpants with someone you can trust."

  14. Brilliant! This had me laughing out loud (in an office surrounded by unsuspecting coworkers!).

    There was a liquor store robbery here in NZ once, where the perpetrator (with nothing more than a knife) undertook the robbery completely naked. His thinking was (apparently) that the two female store assistants would be too shocked to render an accurate description of him. Fail. They were "forensic" in their detailing of him, and he was apprehended speedily.

  15. Thanks, Dixon! I'm so glad you had a laugh on me--I was particularly fond of the "satanic ecstasy" phrase myself.

    Rob, you are always inspirational.

    A naked man with a knife is an arresting sight, Stephen. I generally found that women made better eye-witnesses when it came to suspect descriptors. They notice details men seem to gloss over. Guys would typically say something along the lines of, "That dude was naked, man!" "Yes, but what did he look like?" "Ummm...he was balls-ass naked, man...had a knife, I think." Guys typically did better with cars.

  16. Recent comments made me think of a few things. In Jay Cronley's comic crime novel QUICK CHANGE (later a Bill Murray movie) a taxi driver is asked to describe three (clothed) people. The cops says "You're much better at describing the woman."

    Driver says "That's the price you pay."

    Do you know Randy Newman's song "Naked Man?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ycv6W-QSg0Q It's funny but he says it is based a true story he couldn't fit into the song. Supposedly a naked man stole a woman's purse. The cops arrested a naked man holding a purse and he claimed a DIFFERENT naked man had handed it to him...

  17. I finally got around to catching up on this week’s posts. David, we appreciate that you suffered to make the rest of us chuckle. Personally, I’ll not admit to any co-ed nudity on the beach, which would have been a matter of happenstance.

    Shot in the Dark… Was that the one with the fan scene?


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