Creative cuffing for small-wristed subjects

By Richard Weinblatt

In defensive tactics for policing, we're always looking for ways to control (that operative word is bolded on purpose) the behaviorally challenged individual. Unfortunately, not all wrists come in a convenient size to fit our handcuffs. Many people with slender wrists, particularly juveniles, are able to slip out of the cuffs despite our best efforts to do the right things. This Weinblatt's Tips column covers what you can do with creative cuffing to control escape-prone wrists.

By way of reminder, those "correct things" include handcuffing behind in almost all cases (except some situations such as limb disabilities, etc. which should be spelled out in your agency's procedures), turning the keyholes in the same direction, "finger" testing for fit, and double-locking for officer safety. Hopefully, you also indicated that you double-locked the handcuffs in your report's narrative. That documentation cuts down on those nasty complaints and tort claims.

But what if you tighten that single strand (or single yoke, as some refer to it) all the way down and there's still plenty of room for the perp. to pull out? There's not much control if the person can pull their hand out of the handcuff.

One solution is the use of flex cuffs. A couple of downsides are the danger of tightening them too much and not having the ability to loosen them and the need for a cutting instrument to slice them off. You also need to have those flexible restraints on you, not buried in the trunk of the patrol car.

Reusable flex cuffs are out there, however they are harder to find and tend to be used in training environments. Also, their locking and unlocking mechanisms take a little getting used to.

But wait, there is an even more convenient method that you can use to handcuff people who have slim wrists and it's right on your duty belt. They are called (drum roll please)….handcuffs.

The trusty old handcuffs are the same. Your aim of controlling the subject is also the same. So what's changed to make them work? It's your creative cuffing application of the metal bracelets that is modified.

What I used to do with thin-wristed folks is have them (sometimes with some assistance- their tax dollars at work) place their wrists together behind their backs horizontally. I would then take one handcuff and place it around both wrists. Of course, I would finger test for fit and double-lock them. The other cuff could then be handcuffed to a belt loop on the back of their pants.

More tips from Richard Weinblatt

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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