Preventing and countering cuffed assaults

Last month, an email alert from the LAPD Hollenbeck Training Unit circulated in the LE community, citing incidents of assault by handcuffed suspects. According the report, these were “sudden and violent attacks by well trained and focused individuals.”

From the training unit’s Use of Force Review Division:

  • One incident occurred in the Valley while the other incident occurred Downtown. One suspect who was handcuffed, twisted the cuff chain links around an officer's wrist trapping the officer and causing injury. In both cases, the suspects had spent time in prison.

  • In the Valley case, the suspect, a white supremacist, had slipped the cuffs around to the front of the body, thwarted the application of OC and began the attack. In the other case, the hands were still in the back area. In both cases, the suspects trapped the officers' hands and tried to drag them closer in, presumably to continue the attack. In the Downtown case, the officer reported that his hand was rendered completely useless due to the injury.

While "contortionist" incidents like these aren't new, they are a critical reminder that when it comes to suspect restraint, never let your guard down. Headbutts. kicks, knee strikes, bites, as well as gaining access to a missed weapon can all be utilized when a subject is handcuffed -- in fact, the handcuffs themselves can act as a weapon.

"When dealing with ex-cons, we have to remember that they have graduated from a type of ‘college’ that teaches them to be better at what they do and not get caught next time or how to kill the officer that does catch them," said Ricky Tucker, Training Coordinator with the North Carolina State Capitol Police.

According to Tucker, prison is not the only place people learn these techniques. Anybody who has studied the martial arts or military people would have a good chance of knowing this, too. In fact, any subjects handcuffed in front without special restraints would have the ability to block your attempts to control him, trap your hands and take you down, or even choke you out.

The bottom line, says P1's Gary Klugiewicz, is to handcuff the subject behind the back – even if it takes two sets of handcuff. Use a belt to fashion an impromptu set of belly chains to hold the handcuffs in place either in the front of the back. There are numerous inexpensive Velcro waist “chains” commercially available that serves this purpose.

"If you aren’t going to handcuffing the subject behind -- and if you're not attaching the handcuffs to the body if you do handcuff in front -- why cuff him at all?" said Klugiewicz. "You are just giving him a pair of improvised brass knuckles with a garrote holding them together. Take the time to do it right."

The following images, provided by Ricky Tucker, demonstrate some common cuffed assaults: 

This photo shows officer reaching or punching with the subject able to block the officer's attempts at physical control.

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