L3 – 10.6 Handcuffing Methods

Handcuffing Methods

I   Position of Disadvantage

The purpose of putting a subject in a position of disadvantage is to prevent or reduce the likelihood of them assaulting the officer upon initial contact. Although no position affords 100% protection from assault, utilizing the techniques described should provide some forewarning that an assault is possible or imminent, and better prepare the officer to control the subject. The threat assessment of a situation will determine the position and restraint used on a subject. The higher the perceived threat, based upon the facts presented at the time, the greater degree of control should be imposed upon the subject. The decision to place the subject in a position of disadvantage will be based on the facts presented at the time of the encounter. These facts may include the size of the officer vs. the size of the subject, the type of arrest/detention, environment, high crime neighborhood, etc. The officer does not need to believe that a subject is armed and dangerous to articulate placing the subject in a kneeling or prone position of disadvantage.

It is important to understand that handcuffing may occur in various locations that may require different tactics. For example, the prone handcuffing position is usually considered the safest position; however in confined spaces or when dealing with other factors, i.e. hallways, tall grass, highway dividers, furniture, smaller vessels, the kneeling position may be the most practical and the safest position of disadvantage possible based on the circumstances.

II    Standing Handcuffing Method

a.    Subject Placement

Begin the standing method of handcuffing by placing the subject in a good standing handcuffing position (Figure 10.5) using the following commands:

  1. “Stand facing away from me, with your arms straight out to your sides.”
  2. “Move your feet wider than shoulder width apart.”
  3. “Point your toes outward.”
  4. “Bend over slightly at the waist.”
  5. “Place your hands straight out behind your back with the palms facing upwards.”
  6. “Face away from the sound of my voice.”

b.    Approach

After you place the subject in a good standing handcuffing position, move to a position at the edge of the reactionary gap, draw your handcuffs, and obtain the correct grip. At this point, you are ready to breach the reactionary gap and apply the handcuffs.

Upon entering the reactionary gap, it is important to step and slide as you make your approach. This keeps you balanced on the balls of your feet and prepared to overcome any resistance. Do not cross over your feet as you enter the gap, as it can cause you to become unsteady and lose your balance.

Figure 10.5: Standing handcuffing position

c.   Application

It is important to apply the handcuffs quickly and efficiently. Subjects who resist during the handcuffing procedure usually do so when they first feel you applying the handcuffs or if they feel you have lost control.

When you are ready to apply the handcuffs, do the following:

  1. Hold the handcuff in a good grip and align the oval of the handcuff with the oval of the wrist.
    1. Grab the thumb of the hand that you are applying the handcuff to and simultaneously push the handcuff onto the wrist and the wrist into the handcuff (Figure 10.6).

Figure 10.6: Applying first cuff

  • Turn the subject’s wrist so that the thumb is pointing upward.

Figure 10.7: Securing second hand

  • Reach over with the support hand, and-in a manner similar to shaking the hand, grasp the subject’s other hand at the fingers (Figure 10.7). Turn that hand so that the thumb points upward, and bring the second handcuff to the wrist.
  • Apply the second handcuff by simultaneously pushing the handcuff onto the wrist and raising the wrist into the handcuff (Figure 10.8).

Figure 10.8: Applying second cuff

  • As soon as it is tactically safe to do so, check the handcuffs for tightness and double lock them.

To check for tightness, place the tip of your pinky finger between the handcuff and the wrist. If it fits comfortably, the handcuffs are not too tight.

d.  Compression Wristlock

If you are going to move the subject, it may be necessary to employ a compression wristlock (Figure 10.9) to maintain control over the subject. Do so in the following manner:

  1. Palm the back of the subject’s hand with one hand and place your other hand on the subject’s triceps of the same arm.
  2. If the subject begins to resist, apply compression wristlock.
  3. As soon as the subject complies, ease pressure on the wristlock, without releasing your hold.

Figure 10.9: Compression wristlock

e.   Weapons Check

After the handcuffs are applied and double locked, the subject should be checking in the immediate area where the handcuffs are near (e.g. areas accessible to the hands first such as fingers, forearms, lower back, waistband, front and back pockets, and foot/ankle area) before being moved. You should immediately ask the individual if they have a weapon on them—if they do, ask where it is and retrieve it.

f.     Use of Multiple Handcuffs

If the subject is too wide across the shoulders, consider using two handcuffs (Figure 10.10-10.11), three handcuffs, or leg irons depending on their size and shape.

Figure 10.10: Two handcuffs linked together

Figure 10.11: Left: Applying first handcuff. Right: Applying second handcuff

III    Kneeling Handcuffing Method

a.     Subject Placement

Begin the kneeling method of handcuffing by placing the subject in a good kneeling handcuffing position (Figure 10.12) using the following commands:

  1. “Kneel down facing away from me, with your arms straight out to your sides.”
  2. “Cross your left ankle over the top of your right ankle.”
  3. “Sit back on your ankles.”

Figure 10.12: Kneeling handcuffing position

b.   Approach

After you place the subject in a good kneeling handcuffing position, move to a position at the edge of the reactionary gap, draw your handcuffs, and obtain the correct grip. Then you are ready to breach the reactionary gap and apply the handcuffs. Enter the reactionary gap just as you did for the standing handcuffing technique, but this time lower your center of gravity by squatting slightly; do not bend over.

c.   Application

When you are ready to apply the handcuffs, do the following:

  1. Hold the handcuff in a good grip and align the oval of the handcuff with the oval of the wrist.
  2. Grab the thumb of the hand that you are applying the handcuff to and simultaneously push the handcuff onto the wrist and the wrist into the handcuff.

Note: It is important to remember to lower your center of gravity by squatting slightly and not bending over. If you bend over during this process, you could lose your balance.

  1. Turn the subject’s wrist so that the thumb is pointing upward. Reach over with the support hand, and—in a manner similar to shaking the hand—grasp the subject’s other hand at the fingers.
  2. Turn that hand so that the thumb points upward, and bring the second handcuff to the wrist.
  3. Apply the second handcuff by simultaneously pushing the handcuff onto the wrist and raising the wrist into the handcuff.
  4. As soon as it is tactically safe to do so, check the handcuffs for tightness and double lock them.

d.  Compression Wristlock

To raise the subject to the standing position, do the following:

  1. Use a wristlock, as in standing method, to maintain control over the subject.
  2. Tell the subject to uncross his/her ankles.
  3. Tell the subject to come to one knee and then, when you are ready, tell the subject to stand.
  4. If the subject begins to resist, apply a compression wristlock. As soon as the subject complies, ease pressure on the wristlock, without releasing your hold.

If you are going to move the subject, it may be necessary to continue wristlock control, as previously instructed, to maintain control.

IV   Handcuffing Summary

Security officers must understand the basic components and operation of different types of handcuffs to effectively use them in a security-risk situation. Understanding the proper application techniques is necessary in order to prevent discomfort or pain to the subject and avoid resistance while handcuffing. Additionally, security officers must use verbal commands in order to position the subject in preparation for handcuffing and must be cognizant of the reactionary gap and cautious upon approach.