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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

Notice I still maintain a bladed stance with my weapon side back. My head is buried directly below the suspect's head and applies pressure to his left shoulder. This helps to lock his left arm into place, and to protect me from reverse head-butts. My right hand pushes the suspect's hips away from me to create a "bow" in his back.

This is a very powerful and tight position that affords me maximum security and opportunity for counterattack. It should take approximately one to three seconds to reach this position after the initial grip on the suspect's shoulders is made. Several suspects and role-playing officers have commented on the lack of pain, yet incredible control the final position affords.

From this position I have several offensive counterattacks at my disposal. I will discuss my two personal favorites. However, a creative officer can develop specific follow-up techniques based on his physical attributes and department policy. Depending on the severity of the situation, officers should be mindful of the opportunity to apply a carotid restraint.

Both of the suspect's arms are trapped, while the officer's free hand has a clear path to the neck. When applying the carotid restraint, I circle my right arm around the suspect's neck and start to apply pressure. I then bump my hips into the suspect's hips to offset his balance. Immediately following, I take two steps backward while dropping my hips downward.

The suspect is unable to compensate for his loss of balance and will fall to the ground directly in front of me in a seated position. I end up kneeling behind the suspect or seated with my heels inside his thighs, ready to apply the carotid restraint.

Down On the Ground

My next option is to take the suspect to the ground. I hook my left hand behind the suspect's left shoulder and my right hand behind the suspect's right shoulder. This is basically a return to the position depicted in the first photograph. The difference is subtle but important. I drive my palms up the suspect's back and push the knife-edge portion of my palm between the suspect's shoulder blades.

Once I secure the lock on the suspect's arms, I hook my right heel around the suspect's right ankle or foot. I then quickly turn to my right and drop the suspect onto the ground. I make sure that I land with both arm hooks still in place. I land directly on top of the suspect and use his body to help break my fall. This is an extremely powerful throw because the suspect is unable to break his fall.

Clamping Down

The next series of techniques is specific to handcuffing and assumes the suspect has thus far been compliant. I deploy my handcuffs with my free right hand and prepare them for application. The two techniques I advocate are simple to perform and rely on gross motor skill techniques.
In the first technique, I stage my handcuffs against my right leg. I position them with the single-strand down and grip the chain in the palm of my hand.

I pull the suspect's arms away from his lower back with my left hand and arm. I then use the traditional "push" method to handcuff the suspect's wrists. I maintain the lock with my left arm during the entire handcuffing procedure.

The second technique is utilized if I am unable to bring the suspect's wrists close enough together to handcuff them at the same time. This may be the case if the suspect is extremely muscular or overweight.

I stage the handcuffs in the same manner as I did in the first technique. I handcuff the suspect's right wrist first and then release my left hand from his right arm. My right hand simultaneously takes a positive grip on the chain of the handcuff and prepares to lock the left wrist. My left hand transitions to the suspect's left wrist just above the portion of the wrist I plan to handcuff. I then handcuff the suspect's left wrist by pushing his left wrist toward my right hand.

The same principles of movement may be utilized if the suspect is standing, kneeling, or prone. In addition to handcuffing, this technique provides excellent control of a suspect during a pat down search. If used for searching, the free hand circles around the suspect's body to search for contraband or weapons.

Greg Amundson is a patrol deputy in California and a soldier in the Army National Guard. He is a California state certified Defensive Tactics Instructor and expert witness on peace officers' use of force. He is also an instructor for Crossfit, Krav Maga, and Integrated Tactical Response.

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