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Edged Weapons Part Two – The Armed Officer

I admit it, I love knives. There are just so many cool ones out there, it’s hard to choose. But while most us crimefighters carry a knife of some sort, many of us have never trained – mentally or physically – to use our knives as anything more than a basic utility tool. Here are a few things to think about if you carry an edged weapon at work.

Invest in a good knife. Let’s start with the obvious: cops are notoriously cheap. It’s just part of our basic DNA. Frugality is a good trait, but we cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to our basic life-saving equipment, such as our firearm, our body armor, or our edged weapons. There is a lot of great information and research out there, there are also a million idiotic blog posts from so-called “experts” about police and tactical knives so make sure you’re getting the facts. My friends at Spartan Cops posted this list of suggestions when it comes selecting a duty knife. (Guide to Selecting a Tactical Folding Knife for Police Work) Among other things, they talk about making sure your knife has a sturdy pocket clip, one-handed opening, good hand protection, and an appropriate blade length; all great advice from real experts. Take the time to learn about the type of materials used to make a good quality knife; a blade that is easy to sharpen is often easily dulled. Many of the finest blades are susceptible to rust, damage, or breakage. When you start looking at a knife (or two or more) to carry on duty, also consider how you’re going to utilize it and where you’re going to carry it, and don’t spend so much money on a knife that you’re afraid to use.

Take care of your investment. Too many officers think a knife is self-maintaining and trust me, they are not. Don’t just sit there thinking you will buy a stainless steel knife and stick it in your pocket until sometime in the distant future when you need it. Remember, the same knife you use to jimmy doors or cut seat belts with may also be the knife that you may someday use in a deadly force situation. A truly good knife requires the same care any important piece of equipment does, and with regular care and cleaning will give you a quality blade your grandkids may wear on-duty someday. Some officers prefer professional sharpening, but there are many sharpening kits available at very reasonable prices that make it easy, quick, and satisfying to produce a razor sharp edge! Also make sure that you regularly check any mechanisms, clips, and exterior of your knife to make sure it’s always ready to go, just like you. Many of the quality law enforcement blades available come with a coating similar to the bluing on a handgun, which helps protect your blade from the elements.

Controlling your equipment. As “Street Survival” instructor Mark Dunston talks about in a classic LETN video, officers must control their own equipment. Most officers carry their folding knife clipped to their front pocket. This may make that finely sharpened knife easily accessible to a suspect who wants to use it on you or one of your partners. Take “knife retention” as seriously as you do “gun retention.” Consider alternative carry methods including on your gun belt, inside your boot, around your neck, or in any other more secure location. On duty, I carried a Smith and Wesson folding knife hidden in my back pocket and a small Ka-Bar TDI law enforcement knife (designed by John Benner of the Tactical Defense Institute) in a holster on my pants belt under my duty belt. Both were easy for me to access but not visible to the public. I used the folding knife as my basic utility blade, but my Ka-Bar LE knife was my “Plan B” for a gun-grab situation or any deadly force encounter. Cops also need to control our other edged weapons, including our handcuffs, keys, pens and pencils; all of these have been used against American law enforcement officers time and again.

Mental preparation. On January 15th, 2009 a Sacramento County, CA deputy used his duty knife to stop a 58 year old man who attempted to disarm him from behind. The deputy stabbed the offender, who survived, several times until he ceased trying to take the officer’s gun. I met several of the deputy’s co-workers at a training class, and they all agreed that he was completely prepared to utilize his tactical knife to protect his own life. Learn from this deputy’s success, visualize yourself using your knife as a “weapon,” not just a utility tool. Find a quiet spot, breathe deeply and imagine a scenario where you recognize the threat, draw your knife, and stop your attacker. Allow yourself to feel the sweat, smell the blood, and visualize yourself winning the encounter, taking the offender into custody, rendering aid to yourself and others, and ending up at home, safe and well, physically, mentally and legally.

Knives aren’t just for Patrol. If you’re undercover, working in plainclothes, or even off duty, a good knife can be a great tool for you to have handy. Make sure you know the local laws regarding knives and what you can legally carry and also make sure you’re up to speed on departmental policy. Then find an edged weapon that is easy to conceal, easy to access, and most of all, easy to use. Someone in your agency or your squad is a knife aficionado; turn to them for advice and input regarding your selection of a personal edged weapon. Consider investing in a quality training course to enhance your edged weapons skills, and make sure to share any newly acquired knowledge with your co-workers. In law enforcement, a knife is a unique and ironic tool. Everyone cheered “Dirty Harry” when he stabbed the villain who had just disarmed him, but most agencies are too ambivalent, antagonistic or ambiguous about police officers using knives as a self defense weapon. We all claim to carry knives to extricate accident victims or scrape paint chips off of bumpers, but we all know that throughout history the edged weapon has been a savior for many a warrior, and that includes the modern day warrior, the police officer. Stay safe.

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