Writer’s Police Academy – Handcuffing

In an effort to remember as much as I can from Writer’s Police Academy, I’m blogging about handcuffing and other

interesting stuff I’ve learned since landing in Green Bay. And, by the way, Green Bay isn’t a city so much as a shrine to the hometown Packers. Hotel and restaurant staff don’t wearing uniforms, they wear Packers gear. Everywhere. Like, I feel I’ve entered a cult a la The Wicker Man.

But enough about the Bay of Green. Today marked Day 1 of the Writer’s Police Academy, which is a four-day conference that offers hands-on training with everything from pepper spray to SWAT team door-bustin’. It’s not your typical writers conference, and I know this because even before I registered I got to handcuff a live human being. In the spirit of reciprocation, I allowed myself to be handcuffed as well.

Handcuffing is way more complex than it looks on TV. It’s not about “slapping” the cuffs on so much as it is about putting the suspect in a compromised position and strategically controlling the suspect’s hands, arms, and balance. Here’s the step-by-step process:

Feet apart. Head Turned. Hands cuffed at the small of the back. Textbook.
  1. Tell suspect they’re under arrest.
  2. Order suspect to face away from you.
  3. “Spread your arms out like an airplane with your thumbs down.”
  4. “Move your feet apart!” Repeat until their balance is compromised. This is key to keeping yourself at the advantage.
  5. With your right hand, take your cuffs out of your duty belt (it’s “duty belt,” not “utility belt” unless you’re the Dark Knight).
  6. While standing behind the suspect, use your left hand to squeeze their right. You want your left hand to come in from below. Then squeeze their hand so that you’re essentially pinching the hand around the thumb area.
  7. With the suspect’s right hand secure, pull the right arm back “into your workspace.”
  8. Use your right hand to cuff the suspect. Prior to cuffing, it’s best to hold the cuffs in a “trigger grip,” which looks like you’re gripping the the cuffs firmly together asa number “8.” Keep in mind you don’t slap cuffs on unless you’re an overpaid actor. Push them on between the hand and elbow bone. Then lock them.

    Trigger Grip - Handcuffs
    An example of the “trigger grip”
  9. Secure the cuffed right hand near the small of the suspect’s back
  10. With your left hand, grab the suspect near the left elbow and slide your hand up to their wrist.
  11. Bring the left arm down to the small of the back. Put the left wrist into the cuff. Note that you don’t cuff the wrist this time–you put the wrist in the cuff.
  12. Escort the suspect away. Hold them above their bent right elbow. Apply pressure for massive nerve pain.

Complicated, huh?

It’s tough to pull off in practice. I watched several other attendees cuff their friends before trying myself, and I still fumbled through the dance steps. And this was with a peaceful suspect. Something to keep in mind when writing a scene with a potentially hostile criminal.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Kathy McIntosh

    So cool that you’re a terrific note-taker! The scribe of the WPA. Fun to meet you and thanks for this. It was very hard to cuff someone and I’ll keep that in mind for my novels. Not sure where else it will help me, but ya never know!

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