If I watch another episode of COPS and see officers casually placing handcuffs on someone, I think my head is going to explode! I'm certain that these officers have undergone basic handcuffing class during their academy training, but my guess is that it was either so long ago, or they were so apathetic during the instruction, that the message has been lost on them. What message? Simple--controlling someone completely, and that means right from the initial contact, is a necessity in our line of work. We must totally dominate that individual's world until that point in time when we are certain that he or she poses no risk to us.
The only good that ever came from watching these potential disasters in progress was that I was able to tape these violations of handcuffing protocol to show to my defensive tactics (DT) students. If that DT class happened to consist of vets rather than trainees, most could see the dangers right away and could point out tactical errors. The problem is this: those folks that were in my class were there to learn and reinforce good handcuffing techniques. The ones that really needed the instruction were still out there making mistakes. So right now, here's my challenge to you: whenever you see a colleague not practicing sound handcuffing tactics (good positioning, commands, etc.), please take them aside, and as diplomatically as possible, let them know how they can make themselves more tactically sound. This is the PC way of telling them to "get your act together before you get yourself, or me, killed!"
Just as a hammer is one of the basic tools for a carpenter, handcuffs are the same for police officers. They are a basic tool that is used to control and restrain (they are a temporary restraining device); they can be removed as well as applied. Remember that--don't be reluctant to put the cuffs on anyone. It is simple to "unarrest" someone, but impossible to bring a cop back to life because he or she was reluctant to put cuffs on someone.
The FBI's Tony Pinizotto and Ed Davis published their research in which they described the behavioral descriptions of officers killed and assaulted. Their study, In the Line of Fire, included these characteristics of the officers: they were "laid-back," they looked for the "good" in others, they were apt to use less force than other officers in similar circumstances, they failed to follow all the rules, especially in making arrests, confronting prisoners, and waiting for backup, and they felt that they could "read" others and situations and would drop their guard as a result. Do these behaviors represent a recipe for disaster to you? I agree.
This much I know--as soon as someone recognizes or senses that he or she is about to have their freedom taken from them, that moment becomes one of the most potentially dangerous times in any confrontation. Unless you quickly, authoritatively, and adeptly get the cuffs on, you and your partner are at great risk. Once that subject is cuffed, he or she must be monitored. That set of cuffs is a temporary restraining device. The bad guys are constantly practicing ways of defeating the lock; sometimes we make it simple by not ensuring that we always double lock them. If you leave them unchecked in the back of your car, or at the station, don't be surprised if you find them with one or both cuffs off. Now be ready for the universal complaint--"Officer, these cuffs are too tight!" Good, that means that he or she won't slip out of them. We are not looking to make folks feel comfortable; that is impossible when one is wearing handcuffs. Do not fall for that line. Don't be "Mister Nice Guy" and cuff a person in front; that is inviting trouble. The only people that should be cuffed in front are those with medical conditions, i.e, late term pregnancy, etc. Everyone else gets hooked up behind the back, double locked, and maybe even flex cuffed around the belt or belt loop.