Photo credit: Paul Combs
Typically, a handshake is considered a standard greeting in most business and social settings. However, my observations would lead me to believe that the handshake has been deemed to be Bad Karma by most street officers and has been long replaced by reactionary gaps and imaginary bubbles. In the world of arrest warrants, however, I look at the handshake as one of our most rudimentary tools that can be used to set the tone, pace and success of the entire apprehension process.
If you were raised in the type of environment I was, then reflecting back to your childhood might cause you to have vivid memories of getting whacked in the back of the head for not extending your hand out to your dad's new boss, company for dinner or that new neighbor next door. Since childhood, I have not only embraced the importance of a handshake, but I have come to realize how others have been raised with the same principals...even our fugitives!!
Although this may be almost brazen to say, I have found the handshake to be the shortest and most effective means to control a suspect at the first point of contact. Once I have located my subject and initiate that first knock on his door, the handshake displays a non confrontational demeanor towards the fugitive and/or his associates. At the same time, it creates a condition that should make you more aware of reactionary time and having a survival mindset.
Remember--it's much easier to manage your establish control from the beginning instead of watching your fugitive slam the door in your face and high tail it the other way. As soon as someone recognizes or senses that he or she is about to take a trip to the hooscow, that moment becomes one of the most potentially dangerous times in any warrant arrest. The time that it takes to recapture and get the cuffs on your fugitive could easily put you in a disadvantage.
Although it's only my experience, less than five percent of the folks I have served warrants on have resisted arrest. Most have done nothing more than attempt to talk their way out of going to jail with ramblings of, "I took care of that" and "I didn't know I had court that day." The element of surprise, mixed with a friendly handshake and remembering to position your foot in the door with the anticipation of a squabble, can sometimes prove to be more resourceful than using an extreme tactical approach accompanied by a large group of officers. In fact, sometimes a show of force achieves the opposite effect.
- Have a backup plan and visualize using it before you ever get to the door.
- Always, always, always approach using good tactics and having officer safety in mind.
- Scan the environment; be aware of what's going on both inside, outside and around you during the entire apprehension process. Preparation should always include a site survey and pre-surveillance before approaching the suspect's door.
- Once you commit to making an arrest, do it with authority--the kind of authority that compels them to comply or which gives you the ability to secure the subject immediately. If you use a limp-wristed or poorly executed handshake, they'll know that they own you and it will also eliminate the element we worked so hard to develop--the element of surprise!
On a side note, If allowing someone into your personal space and shaking his hand will cause you to lose interest or pleasure in your usual activities, or to have sleep and appetite disturbances, or to feel agitated or a lack of energy, or have feelings of guilt or worthlessness, a decreased sex drive, the inability to concentrate, and maybe even suicidal thoughts or behavior, the you should disregard this entire column. However, if you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, while still having a good game plan, with backup close by (with an eye on you), then all should go well.
Good luck, happy hunting and be safe!!