Restraint Training: Risk Reduction and the Prone Position

May 19, 2016

Reducing Risk and the Prone Position

A representative of ACPO’s Self Defence, Arrest and Restraint (SDAR) Working Group described in evidence to an inquiry how to differentiate between the Control Phase and the Restraint Phase of a physical intervention. 

Once Control has been achieved, he says,    “…I would expect officers to work as swiftly and methodically as the circumstances allow, […mechanically restraining…] the individual and getting him or her up from the prone position. I believe the easiest way to help identify this transition is by observing the actions of both the officers and the individual. Once control is achieved their actions tend to become increasingly measured and orchestrated”.

This statement reminds us of an article written by our friend and colleague Mr. Mark Williams, who commented on the hesitancy of health-care and social care services to use mechanical restraint devices such as the Emergency Response Belt or Soft-Cuffs. 

Mark Williams: 

   “There appears to be a huge reluctance for the use of what is deemed ‘mechanical restraint’ on people with mental health issues, and I understand the moral argument. However explain to a judge and jury why you didn’t apply a set of tried, tested, widely used, medically reviewed piece of equipment that the law says you should use because it is less intrusive and less damaging to all concerned in the restraint, and you continued to restrain the person in manual restraint for a prolonged period of time on the floor until he/she died?  Quite often during manual restraint, the person will struggle and try and get themselves off the floor, and the staff, during the stress of the situation, to prevent this will press down and apply pressure to try and prevent them from getting off the floor. A piece of equipment enables the staff to gain control quicker and get them up from the face down position as soon as possible.”   

The representative from ACPO’s Self Defence, Arrest and Restraint (SDAR) Working Group has said that we can identify that an incident has transitioned into the Restraint phase because the actions of trained staff would then become more measured and orchestrated.   Specifically he mentions mechanical restraint (handcuffs) to secure the Restraint of the individual before then transitioning to a seated or standing orientation, presumably to lessen the risks of floor-based restraint. 

Many organisations do NOT provide a way for staff to move beyond prone manual (hands-on) restraint – i.e. there is nothing to move towards in a measured and orchestrated way after going to the floor! 

At the other end of the range of approaches, some organisations would try to dictate that staff just not go to the floor in ANY circumstances, and therefore they do not teach their staff how to manage an incident that ends up on the floor at all. 

A measured approach, incorporating professional verbalisations for each stage of the incident – Communications, Conflict, Crisis, Combat, Closure (why not join our Verbal Defense and Influence instructor training?) – would also include the sensible and pragmatic use of restraint devices to reduce overall risk.

Soft Restraint as the Least Restrictive Option
Emergency Response Belt from TSR


Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant.  He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist in personal safety and violence reduction initiatives and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict.

Gerard’s book on Lone Worker Personal Safety >

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Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

Gerard O'Dea

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