Carrying a knife: Officer safety and administrative considerations

The carrying of a knife by on duty law enforcement officers has become quite widespread. Officers spend a lot of time reading through police and military supply catalogs and comparing knives. Unfortunately, few officers have contemplated a host of issues that come with the packing of the edged weapon.

Here are a few of the items for you to ponder when it comes to knives:

Why do you carry your knife?

Knives are carried by uniformed law enforcers for a variety of reasons ranging from their use as a defensive weapon to more utilitarian aims such as the cutting of safety belts at motor vehicle crashes. Some carry a knife "just because everyone else on the shift does." You need to ask yourself honestly why you carry your knife?

I also have to pose the additional question of whether your carrying of a knife is covered in your agency's policies and procedures. If so, how is it characterized and could your potential use of it fall out of policy? That may be a step that you might not want to take lightly. Your articulation of why you have it could change the way it is viewed by your administration.

Where do you carry your knife?

From an officer safety perspective, I have noticed that most officers (including myself for a few years) carry the knife clipped to the inside top of their pants pocket. It is very visible in that location.

For it to be utilized as a defensive weapon, and to prevent it being commandeered by an attacker, it would be better to secrete the knife in a manner that is accessible but not so apparent. I favor clipping it to the inside of the chest trauma plate protector pocket on the vest. You should be able to get to it quickly while still leaving it out of the public eye.

Have you trained with your knife?

You've trained with your firearm, expandable baton, pepper spray, and Taser. But have you trained with your knife? Many law enforcement veterans are familiar with the famous Calibre Press video of the trained knife fighter charging an officer and closing the 21 feet gap before the officer could draw his firearm. You don't want to happen upon a trained knife fighter who disarms you and now has the advantage.

The carrying of a knife may not be problematic for you provided that you are able to comfortably answer the above issues. Your survival, on a physical and a career level, may depend on it.

About the author

Dr. Richard Weinblatt is a criminal justice educator, former police chief, police media commentator and an instructor in multiple disciplines. He has earned Florida Criminal Justice Standards certifications in general law enforcement topics, firearms, defensive tactics, and vehicle operations, as well as instructor certifications for Taser, pepper spray, and expandable baton. He holds the Certified Law Enforcement Trainer (CLET) designation from the American Society for Law Enforcement Training (ASLET) and is a certified AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer. Dr. Weinblatt is Dean of the School of Public and Social Services & Education/Assoc. Professor of Criminal Justice at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN.  He previously served as Director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College near Columbus, OH, Professor and Program Manager for the Criminal Justice Institute at Seminole Community College near Orlando, FL, and Chairman of the Public Services Dept./Criminal Justice Instructor at South Piedmont Community College near Charlotte, NC. Dr. Weinblatt has worked in several regions of the country in reserve and full-time sworn positions ranging from auxiliary police lieutenant in New Jersey to patrol division deputy sheriff in New Mexico to reserve deputy sheriff in Florida and police chief in North Carolina. Dr. Weinblatt has written extensively on law enforcement topics since 1989. He had a regular column in Law and Order Magazine for a decade and he has also written for Police, Sheriff, American Police Beat, Narc Officer, and others. Dr. Weinblatt has provided media commentary on police matters for local and national media including CBS Evening News, CNN, MSNBC, HLN, and The Washington Post. Dr. Weinblatt earned a Bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice, a Master of Public Administration in Criminal Justice, an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate of Education. Weinblatt may be reached through

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