Police Knives: Carrying and Training

[Ed. note – This is part one in a four part police training series on duty knives.  Make sure you read Randall’s other articles in the series on the KA-BAR TDIneck knives and folding knives.]

Since the beginning of my career, I have been a proponent of police officers carrying some sort of knife on their persons during duty.  While having a multi-tool or small toolkit in the police cruiser is needed, it is even more important to have a sharp knife somewhere in your uniform gear.

Police Knives

This point was illustrated long ago on a midnight shift when one of my partners, who did not carry a knife, was on foot patrol in an apartment complex.  The officer happened upon a suicidal man hanging from a tree by a rope.

The guy was still gurgling and gasping for air.  Unable to cut him down, my friend grabbed him in a bear hug and lifted him upward.  He then started hollering into his speaker mic for someone to please bring a knife—and quick!

We all need a knife for cutting open evidence bags, digging into various media for bullets, opening that locked door, or performing uncountable other daily tasks.

When I started in this profession, police officers carried knives in two different ways.  Many officers wore a Buck 110 folding knife or similar blade in a belt sheath on their duty leather.  In the days before one-handed opening knives, this was the predominant method for carrying a folder.

The second style of police knife carry was the boot knife.  Clipped into the top of a boot, these knives afforded the officer the availability of a strong fixed blade knife while on the job.

Because the folding knife of the time could not be opened with one hand, it was seen more as a utility knife than a back-up blade.  Conversely, the boot knife could be drawn with one hand and was usually double-edged.  These made it favored as a second chance weapon.

I have carried many different types of knives over the years.  The style of knife has evolved based on my likes and dislikes.  I tote a knife for its handiness, but I have trained in rudimentary knife combatives so I also rely on a knife’s weapon potential.

I originally carried a large lockback folding knife in a basketweave single pistol magazine sheath at the seven o’clock position of my duty belt.  The knife was a big comfortable rubber-handled folder.  The downside was that I could not open it with one hand, so it eventually went in the go-bag.

For a time, I wore a stainless steel dive knife as a boot knife.  The fixed blade was solid and double-edged.  The plastic sheath had a positive locking tab so the knife was pretty secure.  I laced the wire clip of the sheath into the top of my Corcoran jump boot.

I stopped wearing the boot knife after an especially unusual call.  I arrived at a domestic with “shots fired.”  A suspect bolted from the house and ran down the street.  We ran after him.  Unable to escape, he gave up and threw himself to the pavement.

I heard an officer yell, “Knife!”  Next to the suspect’s outstretched hands was a fixed blade knife.  All manner of firearms were now leveled at the prone suspect.  “It’s not mine!” he screamed.  Once he was handcuffed, one of the back-up officers walked up and reclaimed his wayward boot knife.  It had flown out of its sheath in the foot chase and landed by the bad guy.

I was never all that crazy about boot knife sheaths.  Less well-made sheaths do not secure the knife (see above).  Most have spring or wire clips that are fine for civilian use, but lack security for a police officer in a fight or during vigorous activity.

I also did not favor the “bend over” or “leg up” ways to get a boot knife into action, especially if it was really, really needed and right now.  There is an exception to these draws, but it is in a ground fighting position that I wouldn’t want to be in anyway.

In Part II, I’ll continue our discussion about police steel and address different knife types and carry options.

Randall is a twenty-three year sworn police officer in a mid-sized Florida police department.  He has been an FTO, K9 Handler, Detective and SWAT Team Leader.  He is currently the Midnight Shift K9 Sergeant and SWAT Coordinator.

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Randall is a 27 year veteran police sergeant in Florida with experience in SWAT, K9, FTO, and Detective Assignments.