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Ties That Bind

Restrain subjects with the right tools and techniques and you’ll keep you and your community safe.

December 01, 2002  |  by Craig Meissner

Handcuff Like a Pro


The proper use of handcuffs should be one of our most important officer safety considerations. If cuffed improperly, a prisoner could escape and flee, or worse, assault you.

Whether you prefer hinged or chained handcuffs, make sure your handcuffs meet NIJ standards. Each handcuff should be able to withstand a tensile force of 495 pounds without failure. Some of the handcuffs on the market today do not meet this standard. I know of a number of incidents in which someone did, in fact, break their handcuffs, so avoid cheap imitations.

The most secure manner of cuffing is with the hands behind the back. To front-cuff is to ask for trouble. However, if front handcuffing is used, greater security can be ensured by cuffing with the backs of the hands together. With the palms out, there is less flexibility of arm movement.


The safest way to handcuff a suspect is behind the back with the palms turned outward.

Proper handcuffing, therefore, means cuffing a subject with his hands behind his back with the palms facing out. The cuffs should be snug (but not so tight that they restrict circulation) and always double-locked.

Approach and handcuff your subject from the rear, keeping him off balance during the entire process. The speed cuffing technique of holding both cuffs in the "loaded" position in your strong hand should be employed. Press the cuff arm firmly against the wrist(s) and allow the cuff arm to swing around, locking the metal teeth on the other side.

Always keep a tight grip on the handcuffs. A dangling cuff makes an excellent weapon. And never handcuff yourself to a prisoner. For extra security, cuffs can be applied with links passed over one's belt.

Once on, double-lock the cuffs. Some use a push-pin mechanism, while others are slotted. Double-locked cuffs prevent injuries and are harder to pick. Last but not least, remember that cuffs are only temporary restraints. Check your prisoner often and stay alert.

Some Prisoners Have Keys


A proper search is the only way to ensure your safety. Prisoners have keys, and they are creative when it comes to finding places to hide them.

Every year, numerous officers are killed by suspects already in custody. Officers must never be complacent and must handle all suspects with care. Here's how.

To ensure your safety and the safety of others, cuff first and then search. Search the suspect for weapons and contraband. However, also keep a sharp eye out for handcuff keys.

Cuff keys are commonly worn around the neck on necklaces and secreted inside the sweatbands of baseball caps. They can also be taped to one's calf or tucked in socks and shoes. This allows easy recovery for a handcuffed prisoner while seated.

Be especially conscious of belts. Cuff keys are oftentimes taped to the inside of belts near the small of the back, as well as inside the belt flaps located near the buckle on adjustable belts. Suspects have even disguised keys as belt prongs inside the buckle's themselves.

Next, search the transport vehicle before placing the suspect inside. You should also check to ensure that the vehicle's shield or screen is secure to prevent an attack from the rear. In vehicles with no shield or screen, an officer should sit in the rear seat (behind the driver) with the suspect. In either case, always secure the prisoner further by utilizing seatbelts and maintain visual contact.

Once at the station house, search your prisoner again. When moving, keep a tight hold of your prisoner and use verbal commands that let him know that you are in charge. Remain alert. An otherwise cooperative prisoner may seek that last chance at escape. Once inside, search the cell area before lodging your prisoner and never enter the cells with your weapon on.

The danger involved in moving prisoners from one location to another is great. By applying some simple methods, officers can safeguard themselves and prevent tragedy.

For More Information

Aedec International
(503) 644-8988

American Handcuff
www.americuf.com

BMI Safety Corp.

Hiatt-Thompson Restraints
www.handcuffsusa.com

Humane Restraint
www.humanerestraint.com

Monadnock Lifetime Products
www.police-batons.com

NIK Public Safety
www.nikpublicsafety.com

Peerless Handcuff
www.peerless.net

Smith & Wesson
www.smith-wesson.com

Tech 3 Training
www.tech3training.com/gear

Sgt. Craig Meissner is a 12-year veteran of the NYPD. A freelance writer on officer survival, he is the author of "Disguised Weapons: the Law Enforcement Guide to Covert Weapons."

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Tags: Restraint Techniques, defensive tactics

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