Get a Handle on Car-Cuffing Techniques

As you are interviewing the operator you notice a handgun on the floor of the passenger side of the car.  Of course, any backup is light years away.

Imagine yourself on patrol.  As usual, you are a single officer in a sector patrol car and cover an extensive area-and your backup is not around the corner.  You see a violation of the vehicle and traffic law and decide that you are going to stop the motorist.  You follow all the routine procedures that you have performed numerous times in your career.  You observe the driver and look for passengers in the vehicle; you call in the plate to your dispatcher; and you look for a safe place to stop the vehicle.

You pull the vehicle over, using your overhead lights, and position your police vehicle in a safe manner.  You approach the car and its occupant, taking all precautions as you do everyday, only on this day this stop will not turn out to be a simple violation of the vehicle and traffic law.

As you are interviewing the operator you notice a handgun on the floor of the passenger side of the car.  Of course, any backup is light years away.

Unpleasant Scenarios

After speaking with the operator you know that he does not legally posses this weapon.  You advise the operator that he is under arrest, and order him from the vehicle, using all of the skills you have acquired through your training and experience.

Having gotten him out of the car, you are getting ready to apply the cuffs, and suddenly he's off and running.  Yes, he was the former captain of the track team in high school and you were the captain of the debating team.  Try as you may, he gets away.  The car turns out to be stolen and K-9 is out of town on vacation.

We can turn this story around in many ways.  In the next scenario all things remain the same except this time the operator was the captain of the wrestling team, and you are still the former captain of the debating team.  Here, he gets the better of you and you are left on the ground bleeding and calling for backup.

Alternative Option

Let's look at this situation through another perspective.  Why let the man out of the car at all?  He is somewhat contained within the vehicle and the keys are in the ignition.  Our job is to still arrest the man in the safest way possible, and here is where the car-cuff technique becomes an option.

Let's assume we are at the left of the subject's vehicle and he is the driver:

• Have the driver turn the vehicle off using his left hand, while his right hand is in your clear view, and instruct him to drop the keys on the ground outside the car.[PAGEBREAK]

• Instruct him to place his left hand out of the driver's window with his thumb pointed down and palm facing to the rear.

• Instruct him to place his right hand where you can see it (usually on the steering wheel).

• Grab the subject's left hand with your left hand and apply the cuff to the target.  (This must be a secure grip; the officer may use a slight twist to enhance the hold on the subject.)  If resistance is encountered you may disengage or apply torque to the subject's arm against the doorpost, enhancing the control of the subject.

• Instruct the subject to place his right hand behind his back while turning to his right.

• You then reach into the vehicle and complete the handcuffing procedure.

All officers should understand that this method of handcuffing requires practice.  Also, there are inherent risks that must be reduced in order to have some measure of safety.  Officers must also understand that there is not perfect way to perform this technique.  Each vehicle that an officer stops will present a different set of problems and will require the officer to look at the window and door frame to decide how he/she will safely complete the handcuffing.

This method can be modified in several ways, depending upon the situation presented.   If there are multiple subjects in the vehicle, the officer can direct all the passengers to place their hands on the windows, palms against the glass.  He/she could then handle each passenger, according to the needs of the situation.

As with any tactic, this technique is not meant to be used each and every time someone is to be handcuffed where a vehicle is involved, but may be employed for those circumstances in which we believe there is a risk for "fight or flight."

William M. Hughes is a sergeant with the Southampton Town Police Department in Hampton Bays, N.Y.  He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, is team leader in his agency's Emergency Service Unit, and is an instructor in defensive tactics, chemical agents and firearms.  This is his first contribution to POLICE.

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