Modern law enforcement officers are without a doubt better equipped than any of their predecessors. Better firearms, less-lethal options, safer vehicles and high speed car mounted computers are all designed to assist them in performing their duties safely and efficiently. But there is one piece of equipment which has remained virtually unchanged for decades, yet is used more often than anything other than the citation pad. It is also one of the most misunderstood, and misused, tools on an officer’s belt. I am talking about handcuffs, and knowing when and how to use this simple tool can literally be a life saver.
Except for some minor design changes (and being made considerably smaller), little has changed when it comes to handcuffs since the first copper slapped them on the neighborhood hooligan. But, this simple set of rings connected by a short piece of chain continues to confuse officers as if they held the secret to time travel. Get any group of officers together, provide with a basic scenario, and then ask if handcuffs should be used. Chances are you will get a wide variety of answers – some supported with what sound like legitimate reasons and some backed up by little more than a puzzled look. Trust me, I do this when I conduct handcuff training and see it every time.
The good news is that once you get past the misconstrued legal decisions, misstated facts heard from the last defense attorney who grilled you, and your own misunderstanding, the use of handcuffs is as simple as the design. Remember, every department will have its own policy and procedure, and you must follow your department’s guidelines, but keep these simple tips in mind and you will be a lot better off.
- Handcuffs restrict, they do not immobilize – Even a handcuffed suspect is dangerous and capable of fighting and fleeing. Work long enough, and you will encounter that guy or girl who can flip the cuffs to the front, pull their wrist through or take off at a sprint with their arms securely behind their back. Just imagine what would happen if this same suspect had access to a weapon.
- The perfect technique is the one that gets the cuffs on – Every training program has its own special method of holding the cuffs, approaching the suspect and applying the cuffs. Yes, there are methods which are better, safer and more efficient, but for the most part, these techniques are a hook to get students to adopt one program over another. Bottom line – in the field, situations rarely allows the seamless practice of any technique, and the one that works is the one that lets you get control of the suspect.
- Searching is a top priority – Because handcuffs only restrict movement, a suspect may still access weapons or evidence that are hidden on their person. This means that a complete and thorough search must be conducted on every suspect – no matter how they may be restrained.
- How to know when a suspect should be cuffed – This is one of the most misunderstood “rules” of police procedure, but also one of the easiest. If you think a suspect possess a threat, then they should be cuffed. Cuffs can come off almost as easily as they go on. Other than a bruised ego, they do not cause any physical harm, and as long as you can articulate why they were used, there should never be a problem doing so. But, not using cuffs has led to more than one unnecessary foot chase, fist fight and even shooting. Which would you rather face?
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.