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February 05, 2007
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P-1 Mailbag: The “Surprise!” Arrest Tactic

What do you think? The following article explores the tactic of taking a surprise approach to handcuffing a subject. Some say starting to cuff a subject before he has a chance to realize he's being arrested may incite an attack. Others claim it actually prevents attacks by getting the subject cuffed before he has time to even think about resisting. What do you think? Smart tactic...or dangerous? Have you used the surprise approach? Did it work? E-mail us at mailbag@policeone.com

Surprise! You're in handcuffs; Arrest technique gets mixed reviews from LEO's

By Latisha R. Gray
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Donald Goddard knew he was in trouble when he saw the flashing blue lights in his rear-view mirror.

Goddard, 47, popped two breath mints in his mouth, but it was too late. Sgt. Gregory Brown had already caught a whiff of alcohol on his breath.

"I know," Goddard, who has had previous DUI convictions, told the officer. "I have done this before. Yes, I have been drinking. Please don't do this to me."

Brown called Deputy Stacy Brandau to conduct a field sobriety test. Brandau tested Goddard's coordination and reaction times in front of a South Tamiami Trail convenience store.

Then Brandau told Goddard to put his hands by his side, close his eyes and count to 30. Before Goddard could get to five, Brandau was behind him trying to put handcuffs on his wrists.

Goddard appeared to be taken off guard by the arrest and turned around. Brandau then pushed Goddard into a nearby pickup truck and Brown put him in a headlock and kneed him four times in the upper thigh, before arresting Goddard.

Sheriff's officials declined to comment on the arrest or the technique used by Brandau, saying both are currently under investigation.

But several criminal justice experts who viewed a video of Goddard's arrest said such a "surprise arrest" tactic is unusual and troublesome because it can turn a peaceful arrest into a potentially dangerous situation.

"I've been in law enforcement a whole lot of years, but this doesn't make sense to me," said Jacksonville attorney Dale Carson, a former police officer and FBI agent who specializes in DUI arrests. "In fact, it's subject to cause more trouble than it's worth. Why would you treat someone like that? I don't see that as reasonable policing."

Carson, who has written a book titled "Arrest-Proof Yourself," said that as a police officer in Miami back in the 1970s he conducted hundreds of DUI stops. The key to safe arrests is not surprising the person, but telling them exactly what is happening, Carson said.

"You have to communicate with people," he said. "You can't trick them into handcuffs."

Goddard's DUI stop was recorded on a dash-mounted camera in the patrol car. His attorney, Robert Harrison, mailed copies of the DVD to the State Attorney and the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. Harrison is demanding an investigation followed by criminal charges against the deputies. He recently filed a complaint with Internal Affairs.

Harrison said he has seen the surprise arrest tactic used several times, all caught on police video, including on a 69-year-old man and a woman. In the videos, none of those arrested appeared to be belligerent or offering any resistance.

The Goddard stop was the only one Harrison viewed that escalated to violence, he said.

"While I don't like the practice, (Brandau) is not the only one ... I've seen a number of sheriff's deputies do it," Harrison said.

One area criminal justice professor defended the practice.

Gregory Arnold, who teaches at Manatee Community College, said some DUI stops can start out peaceful but end violently.

"Someone who may not be violent sober may be violent when they are intoxicated," Arnold said. "I can handle a drunk person better than a sober person. That doesn't mean they can't hurt you. You have to put it in perspective. They can still be quite dangerous."

Arnold said that although he's never heard of the surprise arrest technique before, it could be useful.

"If you can quickly get someone down and handcuff them, you prevent them from fighting back," Arnold said. "More often today, they are trying to do techniques and methods of arrests quickly and it may initially look forceful, but actually it's not."

Of the dozens of DUI arrests Harrison has seen on video dating back to 2005, Brandau has used the technique the most.

Brandau started with the department in 1997 as a public service aide, and became a deputy in 2002.

During her tenure, she has received numerous compliments from the public for her kindness and professionalism, her personnel file shows. She has been disciplined twice for crashing department vehicles, and received written reprimands both times.

In April 2006, Brandau, whose last name was Ferris at the time, was involved in an altercation with a Nokomis couple.

Brandau had her Taser stun gun taken by the husband and she was punched in the face twice. Another deputy was beaten in the head with the stun gun. Brandau was commended by her supervisors for her bravery.

Brandau was recently promoted to a patrol field training officer, and now teaches other deputies and recruits how to perform vehicle stops and other patrol-related duties.

Goddard has been convicted of DUI three times since 1996. His license was suspended and ultimately revoked in 2000.

His next DUI conviction would be his third in 10 years, which could mean jail time. A trial on the October arrest has been set for later this year.

Goddard told Brandau he would walk home, and pleaded with her not to arrest him. He was courteous and complied with her commands. But Brandau said when she tried to handcuff him he made a fist, extended his left arm and refused to put his hands behind him.

Chuck Chambers, a private investigator and former Palmetto police officer, watched the video and said he never saw Goddard resist.

"I don't know if she got frustrated and decided to slam this guy into a vehicle," Chambers said. "But I did not see any resistance up to the point to where she physically slammed him into the vehicle."

Chambers said that during his law enforcement career he made hundreds of DUI arrests and never tried to take anyone by surprise. He simply told them they were under arrest and told them to put their hands behind their back.

"It's a technique you can use," Chambers said of arrest by surprise. "You could also drop-kick them in the chin. But it's about what's reasonable in the situation."

Copyright 2007 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
All Rights Reserved

[PoliceOne members: E-mail your thoughts on the "Surprise! approach to mailbag@policeone.com ]

Full story: P-1 Mailbag: The “Surprise!” Arrest Tactic






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