AP Photo/The WilsonDaily Times, Grant Roberson
FEATURED IN TRAINING
- 10th-Anniversary Conference Shines Brighter than Ever
- Pro Tips for the Firing Line, Part II
- ASIS International to Host Transitioning Program & Luncheon for Law Enforcement & Military Professionals
- 5 Reasons Not to Miss ILEETA Conference 2013
- Less-Lethal Lessons
- Through the Darkness
- NRA's Law Enforcement Division: A Great Resource
Escapes don’t get a lot of attention in police street tactics. Although there’s a ton of data out there on arrest tactics, handcuffing, prisoner transport and such, the specifics on preventing escapes are somewhat overshadowed.
Here’s a brief primer on preventing escapes. I’ve put my seven rules in the order that I feel is most logical, but you may wish to alter, amend, move or even blend these into a sequence that’s right for you.
One: Practice proper handcuffing. After you’ve cuffed and stuffed Mr. Badguy into the back of your squad car and have taken a minute to decompress, remember to check the cuffs. During the heat of battle, you may have just slapped the bracelets on him in whatever fashion you could. When you’re in an all-out fight trying to ground stabilize a suspect you probably didn’t look to see which way the cuff holes were facing or bother with double locking. Once the battle is over, though, make sure the cuffs are on properly before you set out on the trek to the lock-up. And remember to put your second set of cuffs on the suspect before you remove your initial set, especially if he’s still feeling froggy.
Two: Use your hobble. Hobbles have received a bad rap over the past few years because of the hog-tying issue, but they’re still a valuable tool in the event your prisoner decides to take up the long lost art of window glass replacement. A quick wrap around the ankles with the loop and a toss of the hook end out the door and you’re much more likely to have a safe and uneventful (but not necessarily quiet) ride to the Graybar Hotel.
Three: Maintain a tactical edge. If you’re doing double duty and transporting two suspects, try putting your prisoners in a back-to-back position in the rear of your squad car. This not only keeps them from trying to communicate via non-verbal gestures, but it also helps keep the “loogies” from reaching the back of your head. Again, hobbles out the backdoors keep their feet in place, too.
Four: Lock the door. Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? Most squad cars these days have locks as standard equipment for keeping passengers in, but many cops forget that those associates who were “left behind” may feel the need to free Mr. Badguy before you set out on your journey to the jail. Remember to keep them locked out, too. More than a few cops I’ve worked with, while remembering this important officer safety tip initially upon insertion, have forgotten to relock the doors after communicating with their prisoner post-arrest. If you feel the need to discuss the issue with Mr. Badguy after he’s been deposited into your cruiser, talk through the cage.
Five: Search early and often. There’s a phrase first attributed to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley: “Vote early and often.” Well, I like to use it to describe searching. After you’ve cuffed your prisoner, glove up and search them right away.
The “why” is simple: You don’t want to transport this person unless you’ve first searched them for anything that might be used as a weapon. Also, if the suspect has been left alone for even a minute while you talk to a victim, a witness or another officer, search the suspect again before you leave the scene. They may have found that discarded knife the last bad guy who rode in your ride stuck in the backseat. Seize anything that could be used to pick the cuffs—paper clips, soda straws, pens. In fact, take their whole set of keys and put them up front with you. Search again when you get to the station. \
Six: Keep the light on. Like they say in the Motel 6 commercials, “We’ll leave the light on for ya.” Well, turn the dome light on as soon as you stuff the person in the car and keep it on for the entire trip. With the light on, if you’re going to be delayed a minute or more you’ll be able to glance over and see what the suspect is doing. If you have to be out of sight of your squad car, ask another officer to watch your prisoner for those few minutes. When you depart, move Mr. Badguy off to the right or the left so either you or your partner can watch him.
Now I know from experience it can be a little distracting driving with the dome light on—I’ve done it with both red and white dome lights—but that feeling of security from having the light on is very real. It may be just enough to keep Mr. Badguy from acting out, too. He may even think he’s being filmed.
Seven: Read your arrestee. Some trainers put this first—here’s why. Over two decades ago, Chicago-based trainer Joe Truncale, a fellow instructor, reported that over 65% of arrestees will resist after the first cuff is put on. Logic would assume that an escape (or worse, an all-out assault) would follow that act of resistance. So, never drop your guard during or after the handcuffing process.
In my opinion, an escape attempt is most likely to occur either during the cuffing process or when the cuffs are being removed at the stationhouse. The thought of being taken into custody and deprived of their freedom sometimes sends a suspect into a frenzy that could manifest into a fight for their life. I’ve seen it happen. A buddy of mine still bears the scar on his face from a cuff swung during a “routine” shoplifting arrest of a middle-age female.
Note: In the booking room you’ll likely be unarmed and most suspects know that. The second most dangerous period will be when you take those cuffs off so have backup available.
We must be on constant alert once we have taken a suspect into custody, so that there’s never an opportunity for escape. Never relax until the suspect is safely in their holding cell, has been thoroughly searched and the cell door has been locked behind them.
Note to FTOs, bosses and in-service trainers: Feel free to take any part of this article and merge it into your next defensive tactics or handcuffing in-service training session.