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.
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.