Editor's Note: View our related photo gallery, "Two Dynamic Takedowns."
Year after year, statistics compiled by the FBI consistently reaffirm the dangers of our profession. Law enforcement officers all have one thing in common: ultimately, we or those we train and supervise must deal with the bad guys. When we do, we are putting ourselves at risk. To offset those risks, we use many resources including technology and training.
When it comes to training, most of us don't get enough. So the training we do get must be practical, effective, and efficient. This article will provide you with two techniques you can use to keep yourself safe when dealing with suspects who become resistive or combative during a pat search.
In my previous article, "Safe Searching: the Standing Basic Search," I covered the concepts and mechanics of performing a safe pat down or Terry search for weapons. As I stated, searching persons for weapons is a high frequency activity for law enforcement personnel. One of the risks I addressed in my previous article was the risk of attack from the person you are searching, while you are searching him or her. Using the standing basic search gives you the ability to minimize your risk, and maximize your options when the person you are searching initiates an attack.
Before we discuss our options, let's quickly review the primary components of the standing basic search. Remember, you want your search to be safe, effective, and expedient. To ensure this, focus on controlling the suspect through proper body position, limiting the person's mobility, and controlling the hands. When properly executed, the standing basic search position can minimize the suspect's ability to escape or attack.
One point to consider is the way you control the suspect's hands. Remember, it is critical to both "lace up" the fingers of the interlocked hands, and anchor them to the base of the skull, maintaining downward pressure throughout the search. This reduces the suspect's ability to quickly escape by turning toward you and ducking under your hands.
Once you have initiated your standing basic search, what can you do if the suspect tries to escape or initiate an attack? The universal answer is and should always be: it depends.
What does it depend on? Many things, which can be broadly categorized to include the suspect's actions, your actions, and your environment. But under most circumstances, you should be looking at several options, ranging from verbal commands to transitioning to control holds or takedowns, and/or disengaging and transitioning to other force options (e.g. personal body weapons, impact weapons, chemical agents, electronic control devices, or firearms.) The level and type of force you choose will always be situationally determined, and must be reasonable and justified under your agency's policy and the law.
For the remainder of this discussion, I'll focus on one of your options: taking the suspect to the ground. The takedowns we will examine are designed to disorient and temporarily incapacitate the suspect to help you quickly and safely establish a greater level of control. Taking a suspect to the ground can potentially cause her injury, and therefore should always be objectively reasonable under the circumstances.