View Full Version : Protective Custody by Police

01-11-2013, 03:09 AM
If a witness to a crime is in danger do police really put them in protective custody like the TV shows have us think they do?

Or it is a pretty rare thing to happen?

01-11-2013, 03:14 AM
No expert knowledge, but interested enough in the question to check wikipedia and kibitz a bit:

Since the 1970s the Federal Witness Security Program has grown into size. The program used to fight organized crime, terrorism, gang-related crime, and narcotics trafficking. In 1995, 141 new participants added to the program, increasing the number to 6,580 witnesses and 14,845 total participants since the program began. Also in 1995, 257 protected witnesses testified at trials against organized crime members, resulting in a substantial number of convictions.

That article seems to be talking mainly about the Feds, so I don't know if police forces do this, although I've seen it come up a fair amount in police procedural fiction. At the federal level at least, it definitely exists, though I think 257 in a year qualifies as 'pretty rare'. Protective custody strikes me as probably being very expensive and likely to be used only in, say, a mob trial.

EDIT: Oh, hang on, I was looking at 'protective custody', not 'witness protection (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witness_protection#United_States).'

The United States Federal Witness Protection Program is a witness protection program administered by the United States Department of Justice and operated by the United States Marshals Service that is designed to protect threatened witnesses before, during, and after a trial.

A few states, including California, Illinois, New York, and Texas, have their own witness protection programs for crimes not covered by the federal program. The state-run programs provide less extensive protections than the federal program

01-11-2013, 03:35 AM
Thanks! Everything I stumbled upon were instances like inside prison, which was not what I was looking for. Witness Protection sounds more like if you testify, they change your name, ss# (I suppose I was thinking more along the lines of Witness Relocation in that regard).

01-11-2013, 03:43 AM
Witness protection like the whole program is a whole deal indeed.

You're talking about like, the LAPD sticking someone in a cell or some such for a couple days while they locate someone, yes?

There are various things that are done, yeah. They can assign someone security detail, they can put someone in a local safe house, they can stick someone in a jail cell if it's a very short-term thing or even yes, book them and 'lose' them. It depends on the size of the department and what's going on and who you're talking about (easier to book someone who you have cause to book and will then get released for cooperating and explain, etc., than a random non-criminal witness.) etc., as to how much approval for things would be needed and would complicate stuff, and how much stuff is available. That all goes both ways. Like simpler for a small department to stick someone in their little jail, but less likely they have any outside place like a safe house or apt. being used to surveil another or whatever, that they could stick someone to avoid notice and potential paperwork, you know?

01-11-2013, 11:27 PM
Kathl33n... You have a PM...

01-14-2013, 04:47 AM
My apologies for being away for days and not responding. I have a cold/virus that not only had me coughing until I vomited and nose running like a waterfall, it actually made it into my eyes. They were red and gross, stuff floating around. I could barely drive to the Drs office to get antibiotic eyedrops. Fun, fun, fun.

My FMC in my WIP witnessed a gun fight in a public plce where she was currently working, and she saw the gunmen's faces before she was wounded (not critically). Several of her co-workers were shot, and she was presumed dead when they left the place. Nobody else got a good look at the guys.

So my story goes on to the gunmen finding out she was not killed, and they are looking for her to kill her to shut her up. She is 19 and was living with her mother, who was also working at the same place. So the gunmen go looking for her at her mother's. She recently moved out, so no luck there, but they kill the mother.

She is in danger, but the only witness, and the police want these gunman, so here's where my question comes in. Would the police put her in protective custody or witness protection (what exactly would you call it/another question), or would it have to be a high-profile or a mob case to get such protection?

I suck royally at research on the internet at times. I must be using too many words or not the right words to find what I'm looking for.

Anyway, thanks everybody!! :)

01-14-2013, 05:32 AM
Depends on the location. For high-profile / mob-related crimes, either the state police or the US Marshall service offer witness protection. Places where violent crimes is (or used to be) rampant have special units (ex: NY, LA, Chicago, Washington DC, Texas & Mexico border, etc).

Search for "Witness Protection Program Organized Crime".