Strength in Numbers

If at all possible, arrests should be made using the principle of mass, which means having two officers for every suspect you arrest. There are two advantages to this: the arrestee is less likely to resist and two officers are more likely to be able to control the suspect if needed.

Photo: Michael SchlosserPhoto: Michael Schlosser

If at all possible, arrests should be made using the principle of mass, which means having two officers for every suspect you arrest. There are two advantages to having such strength in numbers when taking someone into custody. When there are two officers to one arrestee, then the arrestee is less likely to resist. And if the arrestee decides to resist anyway, then two officers are more likely to be able to control him and reduce the chances of injury to him or the officers.

When you meet resistance from an arrestee, first and foremost endeavor to control the subject while remaining upright, which is your best defensive position. If you can't both control the suspect and remain standing, you have options. You can disengage to give yourself time to choose a tool such as a baton, OC spray canister, or a conducted electric weapon (CEW), or you can take the arrestee to the ground.

Taking the arrestee to the ground is safer when you have two-to-one odds than when you are working solo, but it requires coordination. Both officers must communicate with each other and work together to accomplish this task.

There are two simple takedowns that can be used when two officers are present: the straight arm takedown and the high-low takedown. Once the arrestee is taken to the ground, he or she must be controlled in a prone position in preparation for handcuffing.


Officers need to be good communicators, since this skill enables you to de-escalate volatile situations and obtain the compliance of an arrestee. However, as you know, words do not always work to calm down suspects and some arrestees resist regardless of your ability to communicate.

Communication remains important throughout the process. If someone is resisting, you may say things like, "Sir, stop resisting and place your hands behind your back." It is important for you to remain professional and use professional language, even when things get violent. Remember, you are not acting in a vacuum. People can see what you do, they often record what you do, and it's likely you are even recording the action as well on an in-car or body-worn camera. So watch what you say because it's likely to end up on the Internet or on television. If you cuss and scream at arrestees, it looks bad, and it makes your actions look aggressive.

Communicating with the suspect or suspects is important, but communication is also important between you and your partner officer or partner officers. If you decide to disengage in order to retrieve another tool such as a CEW or OC spray, then you must make the other officer or officers on scene aware of what you are doing. Simply giving the command "disengage" should be sufficient. If you think the best plan is to initiate a takedown, then let your partner know.

Straight Arm Control

When you and another officer are placing someone under arrest, you can either talk the subject into a cuffing position and then make contact, or you can make contact and then explain to the subject that he or she is under arrest.

Remember your tactics when making contact with the subject. If you choose to make contact, there should be one primary officer and one officer flanking the arrestee. Communicate to your partner verbally and/or non-verbally that it is time to make contact with the arrestee. Ideally both of you will make contact at about the same time.

One excellent method of contact is the straight arm control. If you are the officer walking toward the right side of the arrestee, grab the arrestee's right wrist with your right hand and then place your left hand above the arrestee's elbow. If you are the officer walking toward the left side of the arrestee, grab the arrestee's left wrist with your left hand and place your right hand above the arrestee's elbow. The arrestee's arms can then be folded behind his or her back into a rear wrist lock position for control. However, if you are unable to control the arrestee, you and your partner may choose to initiate a takedown.

Straight Arm Takedown

Prior to any takedown, you and your partner need to communicate with each other so that you are both on the same page. That means one of you needs to give the command, "Let's take him down."

From the straight arm position, if you both are able to keep a grip on the arrestee's arms, then you can initiate a straight arm takedown. This is a simple technique and very effective. You both should rotate the arrestee's wrists forward while driving downward on his triceps/elbow area. This should force the arrestee to the ground into a prone face-down position for cuffing. If you both are unable to take the arrestee to the ground by rotating his wrist and driving downward, then one or both of you may choose to step in front of the arrestee to simply trip him, causing him to go to the ground.

Again, communication is critical. When taking the arrestee to the ground, you or your partner should give commands to the arrestee such as, "Get down on the ground."

Once the arrestee is on the ground, if you and your partner are able to maintain straight arm control, then controlling the arrestee will be fairly simple. If you both turn the arrestee's palms up and provide upward pressure on his wrists and downward pressure on his elbows/triceps area, then it is easier to control him. You and your partner can then work his arms behind his back into a cuffing position.

High-Low Takedown

A second option is the high-low takedown, which is very simple. One officer remains high, controlling the arm, and one officer drops low and wraps up the arrestee's legs.

Once you make the initial straight arm control, one officer may decide to take the arrestee to the ground. If you or your partner decides to use the high-low takedown then communication such as "I've got the legs" or "I'm going low" should be given. This can be followed with, "Take him down," although the original commands should let the other officer know a takedown is in order. If you go low and can only control or grab one leg, then your partner, the high officer, can help you force the subject to the ground (as it is harder to stand on one leg) or either officer can trip the remaining leg.

Controlling a subject on the ground after a high-low takedown can be done by the top officer by pinning out the arrestee's arm with the arrestee's palm facing up while placing upward pressure on the arrestee's wrist and downward pressure on his triceps. However, if the officer staying high loses control of the arrestee's arm, then that officer should place his or her chest on the arrestee's back to keep him prone and order him to extend his arm or arms. Pressure point control techniques can be applied for pain compliance, if necessary.

The officer that went low should try to wrap up both of the arrestee's legs with his or her arms and/or legs, and keep pressure on the lower body to keep the arrestee prone. The goal is to keep the arrestee flat in the prone position and keep him from building a base on his hands and knees from which he could gain an advantage to escape and/or attack.

Train and Train

It is important to practice these techniques with your fellow officers since this will help you to become aware of your colleagues' potential actions, keeping everyone on the same page. Simply practicing the straight arm takedown and high-low takedown with little to no resistance will be extremely helpful. Then, when a non-compliant subject is encountered on the street, you and your colleagues will be able to work together to achieve a much better outcome.

It is always safer to make an arrest using the principle of mass and to control someone in the upright position. Once you and your fellow officers begin fighting or trying to control someone on the ground, then the weapons you carry on your belt, including your handgun, are placed within reach of the arrestee. However, it is often difficult to control someone who is standing and so taking an arrestee to the ground is a viable option.

Whether you and your colleagues control an arrestee while remaining upright, take her to the ground, or disengage, communication is absolutely crucial, both between you and your colleagues and with the arrestee. All said, even once an arrestee is taken to the ground, you still have the option of disengaging and getting to another tool.

Dr. Michael Schlosser is a retired lieutenant with the Rantoul (Ill.) Police Department, director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, and the Institute's lead control and arrest tactics instructor.

Dallas Schlosser is a certified master arrest and control tactics instructor through the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, and holds a third-degree black belt in Shinko-Ryu Karate-Do.

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