During an arrest, a handcuffed, subdued suspect is in the safest condition for both the officer and the suspect. While we all hope that a suspect won't resist, they often do. And when they do, the close hand-to-hand struggle that may ensue is one of the most dangerous encounters that you may face on the job. One slip, one mistake, can lead to a violent suspect gaining the advantage.
To gain control over such suspects, officers should learn the OSC (Overcome, Stabilize, Cuff) strategy.
Taken from the "Protect and Restrain Philosophy" that was developed by the Monadnock Police Training Council, OSC is a strategy for managing a menacing suspect.
Protect and restrain teaches you how to use the rigidity and mechanical leverage of a control device such as a PR-24 or expandable baton to gain and, more importantly, maintain anatomical control over a suspect's arm as you forcibly move it into a cuffing position. OSC training combines individual use-of-force skills and less-lethal weapon skills into a practical and potent strategy that you can use when arresting a menacing suspect or defend yourself on duty.
Though OSC was developed to promote the safety of all involved in an arrest situation, it may also help prevent you from facing charges of "police brutality." The goal of OSC is to control the suspect quickly and with effective but minimal force. Officers who cannot quickly control a suspect have a tendency to become frustrated and angry, which can lead to allegations of excessive force. OSC training helps you gain advantage over a resisting suspect, thereby making it easier for you to control and handcuff the suspect in a timely manner.
Let's take a quick look at the elements of the OSC system.
To overcome, you employ defensive tactics skills such as blocks, counterstrikes, and less-lethal weapons, including aerosol OC, expandable and fixed batons such as PR-24s, and energy conducted devices (ECD). An empty hand block, for example, can parry a suspect's hostile grab to the outside. You can follow that move with a counterpunch to the suspect's torso, which is sufficient enough to overcome the suspect's initial attack.
You might also use a baton to overcome a suspect. First, you have to create and maintain some distance from a menacing suspect to allow for further situational assessment. Then you can take the initiative with empty hands or by drawing an expandable or fixed baton. Create or maintain a reactionary gap from a suspect using one of six primary patterns of movement: forward such as shuffle or pivot step, lateral such as side step right or left, or back such as shuffle or pivot step. In most straight-on attacks, your best dodge would be a lateral move since it usually leads to a position of advantage to the outside of a suspect's body. While moving, reach across your body to grab and then draw your baton. This is a "cross draw" under the Monadnock system. The cross draw allows you to actively defend with one hand while grabbing the baton with the other. This technique gives you greater dexterity, strength, and balance than drawing that same baton when it's positioned behind the holstered weapon. Note: Whenever your hands move back and pass the midauxiliary line, your balance can be adversely affected. Your range of movement is also reduced when you are trying to remove your baton from its holder.
Now that the baton is ready for service, you can employ any number of blocking, counterstriking, and subject-control skills in three distinctive zones of defense.
At extended range (Zone 3), most baton systems are pretty much equally useful since there is a forward or reverse strike or spin. But if the suspect is not deterred and advances closer into intermediate range (Zone 2), few baton systems have as many counterstriking, blocking, or subject-control skills available to an officer as found in Monadnock training. This is also true at close range (Zone 1), the most critical survival zone because it extends just one foot from an officer's chest.
You have seized the tactical advantage with hands-on or armed defense with a baton, OC, or ECD. Now it's time to stabilize the resisting suspect's upper extremity through, for example, a suspect-control hold called an armlock. How do you know when a tactical advantage has been achieved? Simple, study the suspect's body language and look for signs of compliance. A baton is a great tool for stabilizing a suspect. If you don't believe me, consider the following excerpt from a March 1994 Police Review article titled "A Friend Indeed."
"The PR-24 proved its usefulness in subduing a prisoner who became violent while being driven to the police station. [Police constable] Mark Buttifant explained how, while he was driving, the prisoner began to struggle with [the female police constable] in the back. He was able to pass his colleague the baton while she managed to put the prisoner in an armlock. There were a few leverage problems, but the incident and the training showed how effective the baton can be in a confined space."
In this incident, a baton-aided armlock was used to stabilize a prisoner's arm. Such an application is not advocated as an overcome tactic, but the technique used by the constable to perform a baton-aided armlock was sufficient in this case to achieve anatomical control and defeat that prisoner's violent behavior.
The three rules of handcuffing are: get them on, double lock them, and monitor the suspect. When removing a suspect's handcuffs, it is just as important to stabilize the arms as when applying them in the first place. You can use the mechanical advantage of a baton-aided armlock to achieve adequate anatomical control of one arm while a partner removes the handcuffs from a suspect's wrists. When removing cuffs, the principles of OSC work in much the same way as when applying cuffs, but in reverse order. This ensures that you are in a position to overcome a suspect should that become necessary. If it were to become necessary, you would again simply overcome, stabilize, and recuff.
– Terry E. Smith is program manager for the Monadnock Police Training Council, a part of BAE Systems Products Group. He has been involved in teaching less-lethal defensive tactics to criminal justice personnel in the United States and other countries for more than 33 years.