Tactics, Technology and Training for Today's Law Enforcement Professional
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Beware the folding karambit during ID requests
By Roy Sanchez
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One moment the officer stood in the classic field-interview stance asking for some identification. When the subject reached for his back pocket, the officer didn’t think anything was unusual and mentally Okayed the movement. Unfortunately, as the hand came back out it slashed the blade of a knife across the officer’s throat.
Could this happen to you? It might if you’re not aware of the folding karambit, one of the hottest new trends in edged weapons. This knife is quicker than lightning, much faster to deploy than any spring-loaded auto knife because it opens upon drawing.
The karambit features a finger hole for your forefinger. The blade has a little protruding nub that snags on clothing as the user pulls the knife from wherever it was concealed, usually a pocket. Thus, the mere action of pulling the knife from the pocket automatically opens the blade and locks it into place, and the karambit is ready for cutting in the extended (forefinger) grip. You can also rotate it in the hand into an “ice pick” grip.
The karambit is very difficult to combat because it’s very difficult to detect and dislodge from the assailant’s grip—regardless of how blood-covered their hands are, they will not lose control of the karambit. The assailant can also grab with the hand holding the karambit and still maintain control over the knife.
In the scenario described above, it’s crystal clear that deadly force is authorized, but how do you apply it? The Tueller Drill, a widely accepted concept in the law enforcement community, demonstrates how a person holding a knife standing 21 feet from a police officer can rush the officer within 1.5 seconds, roughly the same amount of time it takes the average police officer to draw their firearm and place two shots center mass. The drill illustrates how a person with a knife can potentially pose a deadly force threat from as far as 21 feet away when the officer stands with their handgun holstered. It also surmises that lateral movement while drawing the firearm is more advantageous than standing your ground while drawing your sidearm.
The Tueller Drill is a sound concept if the subject displays their edged weapon from 21 feet away. But what do we do when faced with a savage assault at a closer distance? In the scenario described above, when do you, the officer, know you are in a deadly force situation when you cannot even see the threat? Everyone who has seen my karambit demonstration has never been able to see the knife until after I had slashed across their throat. Remember, the movements used to draw the karambit from a back pocket will look exactly like a sucker punch. Can anyone shoot two rounds center mass in the time it takes to be sucker punched, let alone draw the sidearm from its holster? Can you justify shooting someone for throwing a sucker punch? No.
How difficult is it for potential assailants to learn to function a karambit? To cause the type of damage described in the scenario above, they need only to perform minimal practice in pulling the knife from their back pocket. Videos available online detail how to use the karambit.
While I do not carry the karambit as a patrol tool, during demonstrations I slip it into my back pocket to show my students how something as innocuous as retrieving identification can quickly turn deadly. I place the karambit alongside my billfold in my back pocket, making it virtually invisible during a visual inspection.
This knife is ideal for slashing without warning, and police officers must take notice and learn to deal with it. Here’s how you can protect yourself from this weapon:
The karambit typically comes with a pocket clip, and when clipped, the finger hole will protrude above the pocket. Look for any clipped knife, and be particularly careful if the clipped knife has a finger hole protruding above the pocket. If you see a clipped knife, tell the subject to keep their hands away from the knife.
When asking for identification, pay particular attention to the subject’s hands. Also, create movement and increase your distance from the subject when they retrieve their wallet.
The knife culture is proliferating in our society, and we must pay heed to the fact that knives are a very real threat to our safety. The “ice-pick” attack we all practiced against is no longer prevalent. Attacks are often violent, with quick multiple stabs and/or slashes. Training for this type of attack is very difficult, but all officers can prepare themselves mentally for the possibility of a knife attack and never take any movement for granted.
Roy Sanchez is an eight year veteran in law enforcement with experience as a motorcycle officer, a field training officer, a use-of-force trainer, a control-and-arrest tactics trainer and a training coordinator. He has trained newly hired cadets in patrol procedures, traffic stop tactics, control-and-arrest tactics and officer survival, and he’s testified as a use-of-force expert in court on excessive use-of-force claims against police officers. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emerson Knives Inc. produces the original karambit, a high-quality piece called Emerson Combat Karambit. Emerson suggests a retail price for the knife of approximately $239, but it’s currently sold out. However, there are plenty of replica “wave” karambits out there. You can find many on eBay for around $12. Of course, these knockoffs are not the same quality and finish as the original Emerson, but they can cut flesh just as easily as the Emerson. I found one knockoff karambit at a motorcycle swap meet. It cost me $5, and the vendor did not even know what it was called.