For some reason, a lot of police officers do not treat knives and other edged weapons as a serious threat. Yet, on average, 1358 officers each year are attacked with an edged weapon. The breaks down to 3 to 4 edged weapon assaults per day on police officers.
I imagine that some of this complacency comes from the fact that here in the USA, nearly everyone is walking around with some type of folding knife. Since the vast majority of people armed with a knife pose no actual threat to us, I believe that we, as officers, do not perceive the knife as the deadly weapon that it can be.
I highly suggest you see how quickly a man can be incapacitated or killed by a man with a knife:
What is an Edged Weapon?
Edged weapons are generally considered to be knives, razor blades, and other slashing and stabbing weapons. They may be designed as weapons, such as a balisong (butteryfly knife), or an edged weapon may be improvised, such as a shard of broken glass.
One of the keys to remember is edged weapons are not limited to folding knives. Sure, we run across people armed with a sword on occasion, but even more frequently we run into people armed with razor blades, bottles and other improvised weapons. Do we really recognize these threats?
There are a number of people who learn to carry a razor blade in their mouth. Then when in close contact with an officer (such as during an arrest), they move the blade from their cheek to their front teeth and slash back and forth with the blade. Typically, the targets available to them are your face and neck. Those are also two of the most vulnerable places on your body.
Broken bottles are not to be dismissed either. Make no mistake: glass is very hard, very sharp and can cut through tissue as easily as a knife. For example, consider the horrific attack on officers in a UK prison in 2010. The press reported that one corrections officer was stabbed in the back, while a second officer was stabbed in the arm. While technically true, the extent of the injuries was much, much worse than presented.
The officer that was merely stabbed in the arm, actually had his arm completely layed open, which severed an artery. Here, two years later, he is still struggling to recover. Check out Robert Kaiser’s blog for some of the shocking photos of the injuries to both officers.
Don’t say that you would never let anyone get close enough to you to attack you with an edged weapon. Every time you go to handcuff someone, they are that close to you. Unless you plan on handling all of your cases by phone and sending others to make the arrests, you will be belly to belly with many suspects.
Also, we all know that a subject can cover a distance of 21′ and start stabbing you before you can draw your firearm and shoot him. Consider this video of an actual chase, where the officer is aware of the danger, yet the subject is able to cover the distance and slash his face with a butcher knife before the officer can shoot him.
Does Size Matter?
I suspect that even the most timid administrator will agree that a machete is a deadly weapon, but what about a Swiss Army knife with a 1″ blade?
The truth is, the smaller the blade, typically, the more deadly it is. In “The Dynamics of Stab Wounds,” researchers found that an adequately sharp blade of any length can inflict a fatal slash wound to an area such as the neck. Additionally, they found that:
“The ideal weapon is, in fact, a short thin-bladed knife, with a stiff blade, about 7 cm (about 2.75″) in length…”
A blade of less than 3″ may be the ideal weapon? How many people do you encounter each day with a pocket knife that meets that length? Especially now that the folding knives with the pocket clips have become fashionable.
What Do Criminals Think?
A relatively unskilled thug can cut you dozens of times before you ever have a chance to defend yourself. Awareness is the best way to avoid an attack. Once the attack happens, even under good circumstances, you are likely in for a world of hurt.
Gabe Suarez, a firearms trainer with a law enforcement background, published the following excerpt in an article in one of his Warrior Talk newsletters:
Fred was temporarily assigned to county jail until he caught the chain for a nickel at CDC…probably Soledad. He was a convict, and the ink on his arms was a resume of murders and other miscellaneous violence. Fred worked for me. His main goal in life was to be able to write to his wife and kids while he was inside. Funny what a pad of paper and a few pencils and envelops can get you.
I asked him once when we were out of earshot. He had stabbed plenty of enemies in his life, many never accounted for in the legal system.
“You grab the shank like this”, he showed it held in forward grip close to the body. “Slap ’em in the face like this…then run it in hard and fast until he drops. Shank ’em in the guts and in the balls”. He explained how that worked well against one target…specially if he was bigger than you.
“If you have two or three you need to take, grab it like this”, he showed reverse grip. “Attack the face, then when they block, trap the hand and stab hard into the neck…leave that guy and go for the next one, then come back for seconds”.
Thank you to Gabe Suarez for his permission to reprint the article here. I hope it helps you to better understand the reality of a knife attack.
Here’s the bottom line: edged weapons are deadly force threats and should be addressed as such. Their range is much more limited than that of a pistol or rifle, but inside their area of effectiveness, they can be every bit as devastating as a firearm.
Remember the old “ability, opportunity and jeopardy” triangle for understanding a threat? Knives have the ability to kill and inflict great bodily harm.
When in close distance, say around 7 yards or less, you are certainly in the range of the weapon, assuming their are no barriers between you and a healthy suspect. If the suspect places you in jeopardy, or reasonable fear of an imminent attack with that weapon, then you need to know how you are going to respond.
What training have you had in simply disarming a subject who has a knife clipped to his pocket? Police training programs and policies need to address this issue. While we all may be able to agree that a knife is a deadly weapon, a lot of cops do not perceive the small knife as being dangerous.
Trainers need to teach officers that all edged weapons are dangerous, and how to deal with them in the safest manner possible. Additionally, trainers need to make sure officers are clear as to where edged weapons fall in the department’s use of force continuum.
Don’t dismiss edged weapons as a lethal threat.