These days edged weapons defense only gets a passing mention in most of officer safety training. While we’re focusing on firearms ambushes, vehicle crashes, and traffic stops, the number of police officers and correctional officers stabbed to death in the line of duty is increasing. In less than three years, 8 police officers have been stabbed to death in the line of duty; six correctional officers and two patrol officers. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, a detective or a jailer, a trainer or a chief, here’s a few things to review at next week’s briefing about edged weapons offenders.
It’s not just about knives. An “edged weapon” can be anything from an axe to a box cutter to a nail gun. If someone wants to hurt you, or stop you from searching their vehicle, handcuffing them, or entering their house they are likely to grab whatever they can to keep you from prevailing. Remember, many attacks are spontaneous. We’ve interviewed many police officers who have been attacked with screwdrivers, pocket knives, sharpened gardening tools, a ballpoint pen, and even their own handcuffs when a neighborhood dispute, an in-custody interview or a traffic stop suddenly escalated into a fight for life. Some criminals regularly carry and conceal some sort of cutting instrument with the sole intention of using it to hurt someone…and that someone may be you! The first line of defense against an edged weapons attack is the realization and acceptance that one can occur at any time.
Listen to JD Buck Savage! Seriously. “Watch the Hands!” Generally speaking, people are going to use their hands to attack you with an edged weapon. Be extremely wary of hidden hands, objects that are “palmed,” hands that are moving toward the “danger areas” such as pockets, the waist, under clothing, inside boots or into a purse or backpack. Watch for potential pre-attack body positioning, resistance to your verbal commands, or increased tension or attempts to move away or distract during your pat down. We often get so focused on looking for a firearm or drugs that we ignore the non-verbal indicators that that may be telling us “this guy’s armed with a knife.” Make sure your searches are through, and never allow someone to be put in your patrol car, transport vehicle, holding cell or interview room without another search conducted by YOU.
Preparation: Mindset, Visualization and Training. When it comes to an edged weapons attack, size doesn’t really matter but your reaction certainly does. The first thing you need to do is engage that “I Will Win!” mentality and think “Not Today!” The majority of police officers attacked with an edged weapon live to tell about it. Visualize various scenarios in your mind and then see yourself successfully winning the confrontation, whether you use deadly force or another method of stopping your attacker. Imagine getting injured and fighting through the blood and the pain, and then when the suspect is under control, see yourself administering self-aid, controlling your breathing, and getting back up. Train to defend against an attack on the mats and in the classroom as well. Companies such as Hank Hayes’ “No Lie Blades” offer an inexpensive training knife along with various law enforcement specific class options to get you truly ready to react, to fight and to win!