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3 times I was glad I had a knife

A veteran officer recounts several encounters where the sturdy knife in his pocket made a big difference


Sponsored by ZT Knives

By Sean Curtis for PoliceOne BrandFocus

Over the years I’ve used a number of different tools to handle various situations I faced while on duty in the mountains of Colorado. My experiences were a little more varied than some – as many of you know, the smaller the agency, the more hats you tend to wear. The luxury of “that’s not my job” isn’t always available.

A knife is a useful tool to the officer on the street for a variety of scenarios, including a backup defensive tool if someone tries to go for your sidearm. (image/ZT Knives)
A knife is a useful tool to the officer on the street for a variety of scenarios, including a backup defensive tool if someone tries to go for your sidearm. (image/ZT Knives)

That said, one of the biggest surprises I came to realize was how many times I needed a good knife. Here are a few examples of times when that all-important cutting tool was essential.

Tent Breach 

This is an unorthodox story that tugs at the very nature of what we do as law enforcement. Sometimes, you’ll arrive at a situation no one has ever even heard about. Despite how many scenarios you may have trained in basic SWAT, nothing you’ve done in your career can prepare you for this.

The scene was fairly straightforward. A suspicious character was called in at a campground south of town. When state patrol ran the plate of his camper-equipped truck, it came back stolen. In fact, it was carjacked. When troopers arrived to confront the driver, he was last seen darting into a tent. They approached, a shot was fired, and units from a 100-mile radius screamed to the scene.

When I got there, I put together a plan to approach the tent with a contact-and-cover team. My cohort suggested that ballistic shields be added, so we waited on those to arrive while we held perimeter. Soon, the shields arrived and we broke into teams, calling out to the tent-bound suspect with no response. Finally, with the cover team in position, the contact team approached, cut a hole in the large tent and dropped a flashbang inside.

Most people don’t cut perfectly good tents. I certainly had no reason to up to that point. They are actually very tough to cut. If my partner hadn’t had a big, sharp knife, we likely would have struggled in a moment where the officer deploying ordnance would have been exposed.

As it was, things turned out well and the suspect was recovered. Based on the armament and literature we found, whatever he was planning was bad. He was stopped, and the knife played a critical role that day.

Freed Animal 

We see some rough things on the road. This one could have been a lot uglier if I hadn’t had my knife with me.

I passed a truck going the opposite direction on patrol one day. My habit-formed glance in the sideview mirror revealed a furry form struggling to keep up alongside the vehicle meandering up the county road. The rope anchoring the dog to the truck was not long enough to allow full contact with the ground. I screeched my patrol car to a stop and ripped it around to pursue.

The cattle dog tied to the bed of the truck had been running for a couple miles as near as I could tell. When the truck stopped, my knife was swift, cutting the rope that had forced the dog into that ragged race. The owner quickly tended to the freed dog and took it to the veterinarian. Again, the knife was a critical tool that helped me resolve a situation that needed immediate attention and the specificity of a cutting tool. Thankfully, the dog was OK.

Blue Baby 

When I went through EMT school, I learned that a hard, sharp object punched into the bottom corner of a vehicle’s window could break it. It was a couple of years before I put this knowledge to the test. On patrol one day, I got a call for a woman who had locked her infant in the car by accident while unloading groceries. When I responded, the scene was nothing to worry about. The child was sleeping in its car seat, and the mom was just a little embarrassed.

As I began to work the slim-jim to try and pop the lock, the infant awoke. Realizing its lack of proximity to its mom, the baby began to cry. I worked frantically at the door to no avail. The child’s cry turned into a full-blown fit, and he struggled to be free of the child seat. Soon, the baby had wriggled down to the cross-section of the restraint. I kept trying the door until I noticed the child’s face turning blue.

The end of my knife had a sharp enough pommel that I pulled it out, apologized to the mother and began banging it against the bottom corner of the window on the driver’s side door. Fire and EMS were on the way, but this situation needed to be resolved a lot sooner than their arrival, so I redoubled my efforts, eventually shattering the glass and popping the lock.

Mom was able to free the child from the seat, and his purple face quickly returned to normal. Soon after, my breathing returned to normal, too. How important a little bit of knowledge and a knife were in that moment, I’ll likely never know.

Always Keep a Knife with You 

I’ve used knives to cut people from seat belts in overturned cars. I’ve used them to free trapped bowlines on rafts, during search and rescue missions and in a number of other dramatic scenarios I could recount.

Besides being a useful tool to the officer on the street, they can serve as a backup and a defensive tool if someone tries to go for your sidearm. I can plainly state that I have never once regretted any knife I’ve carried with me on duty. As you can see, these few stories represent a handful of experiences I’ve had where a knife had a huge influence in the outcome of the scenario. Make sure you have one with you.

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