Handcuffs, hooks, cuffs, magic bracelets, whatever you might call them, are simply required equipment for law enforcement. Not much has changed in the few hundred years that they have been around….or has it?
I bought my first pair of Peerless handcuffs in 1989. They were the cool kind because the finish was in black. Somehow I managed to keep them over my 32 years and I handed them off to a good friend when I retired, but those handcuffs were just as functional as the day I bought them. Granted, that cool black finish had worn off a bit, but they could easily take a bad guy to jail just as well today as when I first got them.
So what has changed? Well, a lot actually.
Gone are the days of carrying a single pair of cuffs in a case right in the middle of the back of your belt. We all know that leads to back problems, and if you are only carrying one set of handcuffs, let me be the first to say that you lack ambition for crime fighting!
Hinged handcuffs? They can be a game changer. I think any cop that keeps up with current trends has seen the videos all over the internet showing how standard chain link handcuffs can actually be defeated at the swivel point if the suspect is cuffed with their hands in front. Hinged cuffs reduce the chances of a suspect being able to use the leverage of the swivel and chain to snap the cuffs to free their arms. They also make slipping the handcuffs from the back to the front by tucking their legs up more difficult because the hinged-style cuffs reduce the flex of the wrists. I will say that one drawback to hinged cuffs is that they can make handcuffing an actively resisting suspect a little more difficult because both wrists need to be lined up straight since the cuffs lack that old-style swivel to accommodate the odd handcuffing positions.
Hinged handcuffs tend to handle larger wrist sizes better than standard chain link, so it can be helpful to have a set in your gear bag if they’re not typically your go-to.
ASP came along and upped the handcuff game with their strong, lightweight Ultra Cuffs. They come in multiple colors that some cops are afraid to “appropriate”. Let’s just be honest with each other - there is a reason we etch our names or ID numbers into our gear, right? Sometimes our cuffs grow legs and end up with someone else. With a name or ID number, or maybe it’s just an identifiable color, there’s more of a chance they’ll be returned to you. These identifier color bands are also used by some to aid in subject identification in notes and reports.
With both standard chain link and hinged cuffs, ASP has effectively accommodated those larger wrist sizes. But what about that skinny little tweaker with tiny wrists? Really small wrists can easily slip out of any standard handcuff, hinged or chain link - do yourself a favor and carry a few sets of flex-cuffs in your gear bag too.
And just a side note about additional restraints. What about the dreaded “one-armed bandit”? Seriously, I’m literally talking about the subject with one arm. I made it a practice to carry a set of waist chains or “belly chains”, as they are often called, in my gear bag. You laugh about it until you need them. And then you wished you had them.
Also, let us not forget about ankle shackles. When a suspect runs from you and you take them into custody, they have already quite literally communicated that they will run if given the chance. So why not reduce that chance by placing ankle shackles on them? Nothing is more embarrassing than the suspect who escapes while wearing your handcuffs with your ID engraved on them!
Wrapping up with a final thought - carry at least two sets of handcuffs on your person if you are in a uniformed patrol position. If you’re a cool guy in plainclothes, you better carry at least one set and have several others with your entry gear.
Too many handcuffs is actually a necessity!
Pete Stevens, Guest Blogger
Retired 32-year Law Enforcement Veteran and K9 Handler