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Police Restraint & Control Techniques

Updated February 21, 2017

Police restraints and control methods are utilised to disarm dangerous subjects and fend off a possible attack. Officers are taught to protect their own safety as well as the safety of bystanders while attempting to control or subdue an assailant who could do harm to others. Officer training teaches methods to accomplish this goal without using excessive force or causing unnecessary injury.

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Aerosols sprays

Aerosol weapons, commonly referred to as pepper spray or mace, are designed to be sprayed in a subject's face. Certain brands are also designed to be sprayed in a cloud, covering a large area such as a crowd. Capsaicin is derived from pepper seeds, which makes aerosol sprays cause burning, stinging and discomfort to the victim's face and breathing passages. The spray stuns and briefly immobilises the subject, enhancing the officer's ability to take the subject under control.


Handcuffs are a traditional method of restraint used by law enforcement agencies. Handcuffs keep the hands stationary and prevent an individual from being able to hit, punch or throw harmful objects. Metal handcuffs are used to pin the wrists behind the back, but plastic cuff ties are also used in instances when a subject is not considered dangerous or when there are multiple suspects to restrain. Some law enforcement agencies also use leg shackles to restrain particularly dangerous or violent criminals. A special gripping technique known as a wrist lock allows officers to control a suspect before and during the cuffing procedure.

Physical combat

Many law enforcement agents are taught combative methods to restrain a suspect or protect against the dangers of an attack. Moves and methods from karate and jiu jitsu, such as chokes, openhanded blows, elbow strikes and knee strikes, may be incorporated to target vulnerable areas of the abdomen or joints. These techniques immobilise the arms and legs in an effort to destabilise and subdue an individual.

Bear hug

A legitimate restraint technique known as the "bear hug" is used by many members of law enforcement. Administered from the front or the back, the bear hug uses the strength of the officer's arms to hold a suspect while the force of the officer's body keeps the assailant under control. This method is typically effective when the subject has no weapon.


Some officers restrain suspects by trapping the head and neck in a headlock. This position interferes with a suspect's normal range of motion and can make it more difficult to resist. As the neck is clamped under the officer's forearm, the suspect's airflow is restricted and can cause reduced strength and ability to fight. FightingArts.com notes that a headlock can even cause unconsciousness.

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About the Author

Sara Melone

Sara Melone is a mother of three and a graduate of UNH. With prior careers in insurance and finance, photography, as well as certifications in fitness and nutrition, Melone draws directly from past experience and varying interests. She contributes with equal passion to birth journals, investment blogs, and self-help websites.

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