When performed properly, handcuffing can be an operative means of restraining a suspect for the purpose of arrest or to prevent an out of control suspect from harming himself or others. A variety of techniques have proven effective in applying handcuffs, which allow proper control of the suspect without causing injury or discomfort. The use of improper techniques, however, can lead to abrasions and increase the risk of harm to both the suspect and officer.
Behind the Back
Handcuffing a suspect while standing in an upright position with the suspect's hands behind his back is the safest and most effective means of restraint. This should always be the preferred method when handcuffing a suspect, unless the suspect has an injury or disability that prevents it. To perform this manoeuvre properly, secure the suspect's wrists behind his back and double lock the handcuffs over the suspect's wrists with the tops of the wrists facing each other. The cuffs should be fit snugly but not so tight that the skin is pinched between the cuffs as this can lead to skin injuries and nerve damage.
Arms in Front
Another method of handcuffing a suspect is by placing the cuffs on the wrist with the arms in front of the suspect. This technique must only be performed when the suspect has an injury or disability that prevents the wrists from being cuffed behind the back because of the increased maneuverability it provides the suspect. When this method is performed, the suspect must be closely observed at all times to ensure safety. After making sure the suspect is free of weapons, pins, needles or contraband, place the handcuffs on the suspect's wrists with the wrists facing flat against the body. Cuffs should fit tightly enough to prevent the wrists from turning toward each other but comfortably enough to prevent injury.
While Suspect is on the Ground
Subduing a defensive suspect often results in tackling the suspect to the ground. When this becomes necessary, apply pressure to the suspect's back using your knee, and firmly bring her arms behind her back. Holding the suspect's wrists with one hand, double lock the handcuffs to the suspect's wrists with the back of her hands facing each other. Once secure, help the suspect to her knees and check the handcuffs to ensure that they are snug but not cutting into the suspect's skin.
Removing handcuffs can be just as dangerous as applying them. Officers must carefully observe the suspect while removing the handcuffs to watch for sudden movements or acts of aggression. Having another officer present for backup is highly recommended. When removing handcuffs, instruct the suspect to place his legs apart as far as possible while standing in an upright position. This helps to restrict the suspect's balance and gives the officer additional time to respond to sudden moves. Once in a safe position, remove the handcuffs from one wrist at a time, while keeping your other hand on your weapon as a precautionary measure.
There are a number of improper handcuffing techniques, which should be avoided in order to prevent unnecessary injury or risk of danger to both the suspect and arresting officer. Handcuffs should never be applied with the suspect's palms facing each other or the sides of the wrists facing each other. This gives the suspect an undue advantage to grab something for use as a weapon while his hands are behind his back. Suspects should also never be handcuffed to a vehicle, fixed object or another officer. Doing so may allow the suspect to use the situation to his advantage to cause injury to himself or others.