The sharp edge of the badge

As one of the most written about type of tools throughout history, this article does not look to be a comprehensive examination of knives and their uses in law enforcement. There are training, books, articles, entire magazines, Web sites, exposition shows...

“The idea of a clip-carried folding knife that rides on top of the pocket allows you to maintain the utility of the pocket, keeps the knife accessible and allows it to be easily used,” he adds.

Considering the designer creates the best knife he can for whatever purpose or intention, an officer’s knife may be limited to type, color, carry location and function.

A common situation cited is a first responder coming onto a vehicle accident and needing to cut someone from their seatbelt. Some manufacturers have gone so far to make the rescue knife, a handle with a small opening to the blade to slip the seatbelt through – a pull and the belt should be cut without posing any danger of injury to accident victim or officer.

Another innovation, inspired by potential damage accrued through prying objects open, is designing a pry edge to handle the task.

“There are a lot of considerations, it really boils down to making [the knife] a convenient and accessible tool that is easy to carry on a daily basis and when you need it, it performs well,” adds Janich.

However, performance does have a unique drawback. In the appropriate situation, an undercover officer might not prefer the tactical utilitarian most-purpose knife. He compares the custom to tactical knife through the imagery of a civilian Hummer to military version. “One has all the extras, leather interior and sound system, it doesn’t necessarily perform any different but it’s a certain level of luxury attached to it,” says Begg. In a knife design for the military, he stripped away the “pretty stuff” leaving the knife to work the same with the same steel and edge but without the polished edge and material handle inlays.

For the undercover officer, this “luxury” knife though may be what might be needed. Begg continues: “It depends on what the undercover officer might be in; he has to blend in which includes weapons. He might want the flashy saw blade with the polish, yet still maintain utilitarian or materials.

“It needs to play the part,” he says.

The SWAT officer, on the other hand, might not be as concerned about what it looks like to the public to wear their knives.


On the edge?

With the number of knife styles available, it can be understandable to become overwhelmed with the choices and options. With what the unknown environments tomorrow brings, attempting to understand the knives use, potential situations the shift may bring can be daunting.

“Cops need to know their intended purpose,” says Borelli.

Expanding Janich suggests to visit knife shops, attend knife shows and put hands on as many different knifes as possible. He also encourages new officers to talk to other officers and more experienced officers, discover what they actually use knives for and in what types of situations.

“Try to find something that feels good in your hand and will perform in the situations you anticipate,” suggests Begg.

Beshara agrees, “It does behoove the purchaser to do some research, especially for law enforcement where one’s life can depend on a sharp pointy object. Ask around.”

Yet, training is a major part to any weapon purchase – whether it be for rescue, last ditch effort in self defense, weapon retention, the rare time that screen is in the way, etc.

Janich points out that knives are typically the only lethal force tool that officers carry on a regular basis, but in most cases there is no clearly defined policy. In comparison, the officer might be carrying a firearm, a backup, a baton, potentially an ECD device and an irritant spray. “[The officer] has all these different weapons available to him, and each one of those has a specific policy associated and a training doctrine with it,” he notes.

Adding that, from merely a liability standpoint and from an officer training standpoint, agencies place as much focus on the knife as every other tool.

“If you want to learn how to defend against a weapon, you must learn how to use the weapon,” he says. “If you’re going to carry it, you owe it to yourself and you owe it to other officers to invest time and training to do that.”

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