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Edged Weapons 101: The Armed Offender

Edged Weapons 101: The Armed Offender

Flikr | photo by member kravmagasf

Edged weapons defense often takes a back seat in our use of force training. After all, just three law enforcement officers, all working in correctional facilities, have been killed by edged weapons attacks in the past five years. However, countless cops are injured every year by knife-wielding subjects, and we can’t allow the low number of officer deaths to make us complacent. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, a detective or a trooper, a trainer or a chief, here’s a few things to review at this week’s roll call about edged weapons offenders.

It’s not just about knives.

An “edged weapon” can be anything from a hatchet to a razor blade to a nail gun. Someone who wants to hurt you, or stop you from searching their vehicle, handcuffing them, or entering their house will grab whatever they can to keep you from doing your job. Not every attack is pre-planned; I’ve interviewed plenty of cops who have been attacked with screwdrivers, pocket knives, sharpened gardening tools, even their own handcuffs when a domestic dispute or a traffic stop suddenly escalated into a fight.

Other offenders 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.

“Watch the Hands!” Really!

While there are exceptions to every rule, generally speaking, people 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 “danger areas” such as pockets, the waist, under clothing, or into a purse or backpack. Make sure that you also watch for pre-attack body positioning, resistance to your verbal commands, or increased tension during your pat down.

We often get so focused on looking for a firearm or contraband that we ignore the non-verbal indicators that that may be telling us “this guy’s got a knife.” J.D. ‘Buck” Savage is right, be alert and watch those hands!

Mindset, Visualization and Training; Be Prepared!

When it comes to an edged weapons attack, size really doesn’t matter, but your reaction certainly does. The first thing you need to do is engage your “I Will Win!” mindset. Most 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 the offender, even if you get injured.

Train to defend against an attack on the mats and in the classroom as well. Companies such as “No Lie Blades” offer an inexpensive training knife along with various course options to get you truly ready to react, fight and win!

Response, Distance, Barrier, Escape Route.

So what do you do when you find yourself on the wrong end of an edged weapon?

First of all, realize that this is a potentially life-threatening situation. Police officers (and police administrators) sometimes get too caught up in where edged weapons are located on the “force continuum” and they fail to recognize that an edged weapons assault is a deadly force situation. Neuromuscular incapacitation devices, such as TASER, are life-savers for both cops and criminals when it comes to edged weapons defense, but we must always be ready (and willing) to deliver deadly force.

“Never bring a TASER to a gun fight” is one of our mottos in the Street Survival seminar, and it’s really good advice to follow. However, can you automatically shoot anyone who presents an edged weapon? Most force experts will argue both ways, but if you’re alert to an imminent attack, you may be able to react successfully in other ways.

Try to create distance between you and the offender; they can’t stab you if they can’t get to you. Train to move laterally (no one runs very quickly backwards) and then try to get a barrier between you and the attacker. Your squad car, a piece of furniture, use anything you can to delay the attack so that you can select the proper force option and save yourself or others from getting cut.

Combat Care and Survivability

What if you do get cut or stabbed? We’re hearing more and more about “tactical medicine” and “combat care” when it comes to injured officers. Learning and practicing self-aid may be a life saver in an edged weapons attack. Read the Force Science Institute’s studies on preventable police deaths and immediate aid. Purchase and carry a tac med kit and take advantage of the many new self-aid courses available to line level cops. Read Ben Sherwood’s book “The Survivor’s Club” and learn the three levels of survivability (edged weapons injures are statistically the easiest for ER docs to treat).

If you spend twenty or thirty years in law enforcement, chances are you’re going to get attacked and maybe even hurt. But if you learn to anticipate, train for the proper response, and remember to “Keep Fighting No Matter What,” chances are your career won’t be sidelined by an edged weapons attack.

This is the first in a two part series on edged weapons. Part two will discuss the importance of carrying, using and controlling your own edged weapon while on duty.

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