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Beware the Restrained Subject

Handcuffed suspects can still pose a very real threat to police officers.

September 30, 2010  |  by Tom Wetzel

Defenses Against Body Weapon Assaults

To defend against these types of strikes, practice basic one- and two-hand side blocks, as the trajectory of these strikes will likely come from a center straight focus. These blocks are useful if the attack is sudden and in close proximity, providing just enough time to clear your head of the strike and provide that quick block.

If a suspect suddenly attacks you with kicks, counter with hand and foot strikes until you can gain enough space to use other force options. Having his hands cuffed should hinder a suspect's balance, so be sure to take advantage of this weakness to protect yourself.

Defenses Against Weapon Draws

It goes without saying that gun retention techniques should be part of an agency's defensive tactics training, but learning something once isn't enough. Many police agencies have instructed their officers on excellent gun retention techniques. However, it's vital that you remain reasonably proficient in these tactics so when suddenly confronted you will automatically react. In the martial arts, this is referred to as "mushin," which means "no thought."

If a cuffed suspect grabs your weapon while it is in the holster, you have a number of options to consider. Depending on the type of grab, you can throw a quick closed fist breaking strike or strike the suspect's wrist area-a weak point of the arm-while stepping away. Follow this with counter strikes and create distance from the suspect to set up for further defense and control.

If a bad guy gets a strong grip on your handgun, consider using one or both hands to try to pin the bad guy's hand to the gun and maintain pressure on it to keep it in the holster. From here, you can use a variety of counter strikes to loosen or break his grip on your handgun.

Depending upon the position of the suspect (side, front, or back), head butts, elbow strikes to the head, eye strikes and gouges, biting, foot stomps to his shin or foot, knee strikes, groin grabs and strikes, and arm bars to break his elbows are useful considerations. Use any viable option to stop a gun grab because you are in a fight for your life. Such attacks are another good reason to carry a secondary handgun. You don't want to find yourself disarmed.

Defenses Against Chokes

Although many agencies have protective cages in their cruisers, you may still find yourself transporting a suspect in a cruiser without a cage. If you are sitting in a cruiser and are suddenly choked from behind, it's critical that you remain calm and get those cuffs off your neck. Depending on the size and strength of the suspect, this may be very difficult. Loss of oxygen or blood to the head exacerbated by panic leaves little time for action.

You must create an opportunity to get a breath or make some space, however little, to continue defending yourself. Pull down on the suspect's hands to work your hand, ideally a support hand, between the cuff chain and your neck. You may have to gain access along the side of your neck where the suspect's forearm would likely be. Slide your hand forward while trying to turn your head toward whatever opening you can get. Continue fighting to obtain some breathing space while you work to obtain your firearm to stop the threat.

If the choke attack takes place outside the cruiser, the same principles apply. Work quickly to find space to breathe while trying to get to your firearm. But when outside the cruiser, the bad guy can also use his legs against you. It is useful to learn good self-defense techniques to defend against a choke.

Escape-Proof Doors

Despite adjustments made to stop rear seat passengers from opening the door from the inside, it is still prudent to inspect the handle area for escape opportunities. Although you may not be able to assess the degree of security that these doors provide, your service department or police garage mechanics may. Have them check and make any adjustments to prevent a suspect from manipulating the door open.

Your singular physical presence can make the difference between an escape and many years in prison. Suspects do not look at police officers as human beings. Instead, you are just a physical barrier that they need to overcome to escape. If that escape requires harming or killing you, so be it. Being handcuffed is just another obstacle.

Having a heightened sense of awareness about the dangers of a handcuffed suspect combined with some DT work and simply not letting your guard down when moving a cuffed bad guy may save your life and prevent an escape.

Tom Wetzel is a northeast Ohio suburban police lieutenant, SWAT officer, trainer, and certified law enforcement executive.

What do you do to protect yourself against restrained subjects? Tell us in the comments below.


VIDEO: Handcuffed Suspects Are Still a Threat

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Paul Kurgan @ 5/3/2012 3:13 PM

Hello good info, Ia

m currently looking for documention on how many police officers have been assualted or killed in the line of duty. Can you help with finding this information. I am a 22year vet with the Washington, DC Police Department, could use some help in finding great statistics. Thanks Ofc. Paul Kurgan, MPD DC

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