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Tactical and Practical Handcuffing

Effectively gain control of a subject without relying on pain compliance.

August 01, 2006  |  by Greg Amundson

Patrol handcuffing techniques vary by department policy and individual officer preference. The goal should always be simple and direct: Get the handcuffs on the suspect. However, being prepared with a handcuffing strategy and technique will improve your confidence on the streets.

I advocate a simple and proven method of handcuffing that focuses on maximum control of the suspect without dependence on a pain compliance hold. Many handcuffing techniques start with a standard twist-lock or rear wrist-lock and assume the suspect's pain tolerance is low.

These techniques have a tendency to agitate potentially non-combative suspects. In addition, they do not leave many follow-up options if the suspect suddenly becomes non-compliant. Most importantly, wristlock techniques only control one of the suspect's hands at a time.

In addition to simply "getting the handcuffs on," I recognize three additional goals that should be adhered to while handcuffing:

  • Controlling both of the suspect's hands and arms, prior to and during the application of handcuffs.
  • Maintaining a position of power, control, and advantage during the entire arrest scenario.
  • Utilizing a technique that provides maximum security and opportunity for counterattack.

The handcuffing techniques in this article provide maximum control of the suspect and offer several options for counterattack. Over the past year I have personally used these techniques to arrest and control compliant and combative suspects to great success.

Slight adjustments will have to be made depending on the flexibility of the suspect. Generally speaking, the more flexible the suspect, the further up his arm you should grip. Less flexible suspects must be gripped closer to their forearms. Muscle bound or overweight suspects present a special challenge. In these cases, I recommend gripping the clothing of the suspect's far arm until you have applied the handcuff.

Gaining Control

I start by ordering the suspect to face away from me and to put his hands behind his back. After compliance, I offset myself at a 45-degree angle to the left side of the suspect's body. My hands are up and my feet are in a bladed stance with my weapon back.

I approach the suspect while maintaining my bladed stance. With open palms, I grip the suspect's shoulders. This is potentially the most dangerous part of any handcuffing technique. The suspect is most likely to resist as soon as the initial contact takes place. Immediately after I grab the suspect's shoulders I run my palms down his arms and hook my hands behind his elbows.

Once the suspect's elbows are hooked I bring them together. I release my left hand from the suspect's left arm and transfer it to his right elbow. This is accomplished by wrapping my left arm behind the suspect's left arm. My right hand assists in this motion by transferring his right arm to my left hand. At this point, the suspect's left arm is hooked underneath my left armpit and his right arm is controlled by my left hand.

Depending on the situation, I may use my right hand to pull down on the suspect's right wrist to further strengthen and tighten the lock. Once the lock is in place, my right arm is free to transition to my firearm or impact weapon if necessary. If I were a left-handed shooter, the order of events would be reversed.

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